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Migrants and wealthy do best a school – latest LSAY data

15 April 20200 comments

Migrant students are 68 per cent more likely to participate in science subjects after the age of 16 than students from Australian backgrounds.

And first generation migrant students are 35 per cent more likely to participate in science subjects after 16 than students with Australian backgrounds.

These are some of the findings of the most recent snapshot of the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY), which have clocked up 25 years this month.

LSAY are a series of nationally representative surveys of young people that follow their transitions from compulsory schooling to post-school education and employment. The program has been conducted since 1995 and comprises six separate cohorts of more than 10,000 young Australians each.

LSAY aims to understand the lives of young people, and as a longitudinal dataset spanning more than 25 years, it provides detailed information relating to the transitions and pathways of young people. Survey items focus on education, employment, and changes in life circumstances as young people leave school and prepare to enter the work force.

The content of the LSAY datasets can be loosely organised into four major areas:  ‘Demographics’, such as gender, country of birth, indigeneity, socioeconomic status, and parents’ education and occupation levels; ‘Education’, including school characteristics, subject choice, post-school plans, higher education, and vocational education and training (VET); ‘Employment’, including hours worked, wages and benefits received, job-seeking methods, and job satisfaction, and ; ‘Social’, which broadly includes living arrangements, marital status, financial difficulties, volunteering activities, and life satisfaction.

An overview of the latest iteration of the LSAY surveys found that completing Year 12 was not generally sufficient for young people in terms of later employment and wellbeing outcomes.

And young people with more education, ability, and experience have more opportunities to move to high-skilled jobs, while females and part-time workers are more likely to remain in low-skilled jobs.

The overview also found that intentions to complete Year 12 are most strongly associated with academic performance, immigration background, and parental expectations.

And also that students whose parents want them to attend university are 11 times more likely to plan to attend university, and four times more likely to plan to complete Year 12.

It found that school characteristics most likely to produce university attendees were socioeconomic makeup and the proportion of students from non-English speaking backgrounds.

The surveys particularly looked at the effect of socioeconomic status and family background on educational outcomes.

They found higher socioeconomic status and coming from a foreign or first-generation background had positive effects on participation in science subjects and that indigenous students were less likely to participate in science subjects.

The surveys also looked at higher education and labour market.

They found university degrees resulted in higher income growth rates, with no effect on weekly pay at age 22 years, but higher weekly pay by age 25.

Compared with Year 12 completion, obtaining a university degree improved mean annual income at age 25 by about $7,000 for men and $10,000 for women, the surveys found.

And university ‘prestige’ had a significant effect on occupational prestige, but not income.

Furthermore, young people who studied health-related disciplines had the highest income and occupational prestige, while the lowest was among those who studied arts, humanities, and social sciences.

And young people whose parents had university degrees and higher occupational prestige were more likely to obtain a university degree themselves.

The surveys also looked at associations between educational attainment and both family and school socioeconomic status.

Both student and school socioeconomic status were positively associated with academic achievement at age 15 years and likelihood of enrolling in a bachelor degree, the surveys found.

And students from low socioeconomic backgrounds had higher levels of academic achievement at age 15 years if they attended high-socioeconomic schools. While students from high socioeconomic backgrounds were only half as likely to enrol in a bachelor degree if they attended a low-socioeconomic school, as compared with attending a high-socioeconomic school.

Another section of the survey examined he role of schools and career guidance in widening university participation.

It found students from low socioeconomic backgrounds were less likely to enrol in university than students from high socioeconomic backgrounds by age 25 (35 per cent versus 64 per cent).

But good student-teacher relationships, a positive learning culture, and some forms of career guidance increased the likelihood of students from all backgrounds enrolling in university.

Also, the effects of student-teacher relationships and talks from career advisors on university enrolment were greater for students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

The surveys analysed the under-representation of women in maths-intensive fields of study.

They found men were about four times more likely than women to choose a maths-intensive bachelor degree program and a quarter of men expected a maths-intensive career when they were 15 years old, compared with just 7 per cent of women.

The gender gap in enrolling in a maths-intensive university course could be reduced by about 28 per cent if women were as likely as men to expect maths-oriented careers, to have the same level of confidence in their maths competence while at school, and to take advanced maths and physical science subjects in Year 12, the surveys found.

In terms of adolescent occupational expectations, the surveys found that 56 per cent of boys and 66 per cent of girls planned to become professionals at age 15 years, both of which are significantly higher than the actual proportions observed in the adult population.

And more than a quarter of participants had failed to achieve their occupational expectations at age 15 years by the time they were 25 years old, with similar proportions failing to realise their expectation of completing university.

Also, students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds were more likely to downwardly adjust their educational and occupational expectations over time.

They surveys also found that occupational uncertainty at age 15 increased the likelihood of occupational uncertainty at age 22 by 45 per cent.

And the gender gap in expectations of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) careers remained relatively stable between 1999 and 2015, with computing, engineering, and mathematics appealing to relatively few young women.

Females were less likely than males to retain career plans concerning computing and engineering (19 per cent versus 32 per cent).

Finally, the surveys looked at the effects of combining school and work on young people, and the extent to which students who work are able to manage competing demands.

They found almost half of all students in Years 9 through to 12 combined part-time work and school, with slightly higher rates for females.

Those students who worked while at school did so for 11 to 12 hours per week on average but working for more than 15 to 20 hours per week while at school had a negative impact on school and post-school study outcomes.

However, working for around five hours per week while at school had a positive impact on post-school full-time employment.