Aust $72b worse off without school grads

Australia would be billions of dollars better off if every child left school with basic literacy and numeracy skills, new research says.

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The report, commissioned by the Australian Education Union, found students not finishing Year 12 would directly cost the federal government $72 billion by 2070.

About $60 billion of that would be paid in unemployment benefits.

However, the report, by education economist Adam Rorris, found if all students achieved the standard levels for 15-year-olds it would deliver $27.5 billion in economic benefits each year.

Mr Rorris said there was “nothing normal” about the degree of inequity in Australian schooling outcomes.

Failure to invest in the school system would impose long-term financial costs, he said.

AEU federal president Correna Haythorpe used the research to support the union’s call for full Gonski funding.

“These are the students who risk leaving school without the skills they need for work and life,” she said.

The report found children of unemployed parents are 10 times more likely not to meet the minimum year 9 standards for numeracy and reading.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham said the report found exactly what the union wanted it to, while ignoring the government’s focus on evidence-based measures.

Education spending was at record levels, he said. However, it was what governments do with the spending that matters.

“Evidence tells us to focus on the quality of teachers and teaching, the teaching of reading and maths and the engagement of parents,” Senator Birmingham said in a statement on Thursday.