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Students' aspirations significantly impact their educational outcomes

Media release  ·  24 March 2014

Aspirations have a substantial effect on educational outcomes as they influence whether students will complete Year 12 and go on to study at university, according to a recent study by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER).

Using data from the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY), the report – Educational outcomes: the impact of aspirations and the role of student background characteristics – examines the relationships between student background characteristics, the educational aspirations of individuals when they were aged 15 and educational outcomes.  

The researchers also sought to determine whether student background factors influence Year 12 completion and university participation only via their indirect impact on aspirations; and if aspirations can be overcome for those from a disadvantaged background.

“The authors found that educational aspirations have a substantial effect on educational outcomes. Individuals who plan to complete Year 12 are 20-25% more likely to do so, while individuals who commit to attending university are 15-20% more likely to see this through,” said Rod Camm, NCVER’s Managing Director.

Mr Camm said interactions between educational aspirations and student background characteristics do not seem particularly important.

“This suggests that aspirations have a similar impact on outcomes regardless of family background.

“It was found that there were some significant interactions between aspirations and academic performance. This implies that high-performing individuals are more likely to achieve their aspirations, compared with low-academic performing individuals.

“Individuals who consider their performance to be average or below average are less likely to achieve their aspirations compared with individuals who considered their performance to be above average,” said Mr Camm.

Mr Camm said another finding is that interventions to lift the aspirations of young people should have a similar impact for all young people, including those most at risk of poor educational outcomes.    

“The results of the study suggest that if it is possible through community programs, such as career planning, to change the aspirations of individuals, this should translate in a common way across all individuals into increased educational outcomes,” said Mr Camm.

Copies of Educational outcomes: the impact of aspirations and the role of student background characteristics, authored by Jacqueline Homel and Chris Ryan, are available from www.lsay.edu.au/publications/2669.html

Media enquiries: Anna Payton (08) 8230 8638