Improving retention of students in education to Year 12 and beyond is national priority reflected in the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians and the Bradley Review of Higher Education, and echoed by the Business Council of Australia. In Tasmania, a highly dispersed population and the relative prevalence of socio-economic disadvantage make addressing the problem of low retention rates to Year 12 particularly difficult. The Tasmania Tomorrow reforms involved the re-configuration of post-compulsory education in the state with a view to improving the student retention in education or training beyond Year 10. Central to the reforms was the formation, from 2009, of two new state wide organisations, the Tasmanian Academy focussed on providing an academic pathway to university entry, and the Tasmanian Polythechnic providing a vocational pathway to employment or university articulation. This structure mirrored the kinds of post-compulsory specialist streams provided for students in educationally high performing countries such as Singapore and Finland. In spite of such international precedents and promising early signs of success in terms of improved retention to Year 12, opposition to the reforms from some quarters was strident and their reversal began in 2010, less than two years after the beginning of the implementation process. The rapidity of these events and the ongoing need for, and prioritisation of, improved post-Year 10 retention in Tasmania present an opportunity for research into the reforms and reasons behind their discontinuation. The research lends itself to a mixed methods approach possibly including the analysis of existing retention and educational attainment data, interviews with key stakeholders, and document analysis.
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Authorised by the Dean of Graduate Research
16 July, 2011