Quit school? Parents’ views vary by income

MELBOURNE (AUS) — Parents from poorer backgrounds in Australia are less likely to encourage their kids to finish high school, research shows.

About six in 10 children from low socioeconomic households in Australia currently complete high school, while 90 percent of students from more affluent homes finish their secondary studies.

Lead researcher Cain Polidano from the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research at the University of Melbourne, says the attitudes of parents played a crucial role.

“Differences in the education aspirations of parents are probably the most important factor explaining the gap in school completion rates,” he notes.


The research found disadvantaged students were not only less likely to plan on completing high school (76 percent compared to 90 percent of better-off students), but they were also less likely to believe their parents wanted them to finish school (58 percent compared to 73 percent). The findings are detailed in a working paper.

“More importantly though, parents on lower incomes are more likely to favor vocational training courses—which have no school completion pre-requisite—over university courses,” Polidano says.

“Therefore, those parents may be more willing to let their children quit school.”

“It seems many parents aren’t aware that more than 95 percent of schools now offer their own VET courses.”

Differences in the quality of schools on offer (including resources, governance, teachers and peers) is estimated to be relatively unimportant in explaining the completion gap.

But the study did find good quality teachers encourage disadvantaged students to remain in school, but have little effect on the retention of other students.

“This result underlines the particular importance of teachers in promoting a positive learning culture in low SES schools where academic achievement may not be the norm among students and their parents,” according to Polidano.

“These findings should help schools and politicians better focus policies aimed at closing the SES completion gap, which is vital to reduce inequality of opportunity.”

Source: University of Melbourne

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