School type and uni completion

Several studies have come to the conclusion that, for a given ENTER score, university students who went to private schools do not do as well in first year as their peers who went to government schools. Various theories have been advanced to explain this, including the coaching of private schools leading to ENTER scores that over-state the student’s underlying ability, poor adjustment from the spoon-feeding that apparently goes on at some private schools to the more self-directed learning at university, and private school students taking advantage of the absence of constant school and parental supervision to enjoy themselves after several years of hard work.

Unfortunately these studies tend to focus on first year, rather than what happens in subsequent years. A new study out today by Gary Marks of the Australian Council for Educational Research doesn’t examine marks at university, but does look at completion of university courses by 2004 of students who were in Year 9 in 1995.

Without adjusting for any background variables, the study finds that university students who went to Catholic schools were the most likely to complete a course with a completion rate of 87.7%. Independent school students were next on 81.4%, and government school students just below that on 78.5%. But ‘overall, after controlling for background characteristics and ENTER scores, school sector had no impact on expected completion rates.’ So whatever problems some private school students have in first year, they do not translate into lower completion rates in the end.
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