Australian education researchers have established that private schooling does little to guarantee a positive career outcome, showing instead that private schools do not perform better academically.

According to the study, undertaken by researchers from the University of Queensland, the University of Southern Queensland and Curtin University, once socio-economic factors are removed there is no difference between students within the two systems.

The report has dismissed the long held belief that private schooling resulted in better educational and career outcomes. Professor Luke Connelly, one of the report’s key authors. said that the primary school survey revealed that younger students are performing just as well within the public system.

“We’re looking at primary school kids here, these are kids in years three and five,” he told the ABC. “And so this is the first study of its kind for Australia that shows at this young age that there are no differences between Catholic, independent and public schools. There’s actually some poorer outcomes for kids at Catholic schools interestingly. That’s also been mirrored in the international literature. There are some slighter poorer outcomes.”

“An exception for kids in Catholic school is that some of the behavioural issues that we also look at, including in this case peer to peer relationships, the performance seems slightly better for Catholic school kids,” Professor Connelly continued. “But other than that, we don’t actually see any appreciable differences in academic performance.”

Interestingly, the paper also highlighted several other inconsistencies and strange factors. For example, there appeared to be a direct connection between birth weight and academic achievement, with babies weighing above 2.5 kilograms testing at an observably higher rate.

Children with a birth weight of less than 2.5 kilograms achieve significantly lower test scores later in life, particularly in grammar and numeracy. The report’s authors also suggested significant socio-economic factors which affect a child’s educational development.

“The other things that matter are the level of education of the parents, the number of books in the home, also the area – the residential neighbourhood and its characteristics – the household income, and interestingly enough as well the working hours of the mother,” Professor Connelly explained.

“So as working hours increased for the mother, some of these test scores also decline a bit. And I guess that latter result really just shows some of the importance of the parental time input in relation to kids’ success at school as well. We didn’t find any similar result for the males’ working hours and that’s an interesting point of difference.”

The report also suggested that the nation’s indigenous youth were not achieving at an optimal academic level, as serious socio-economic causes take their toll. Similarly, those students whose parents had not completed their high school education were, on average, less likely to perform well in standardised tests.

These findings stress the importance of spending time with kids and enriching their educational future, rather than simply throwing money at their education.


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