Which sort of school produces the highest earners might surprise you

Public, Independent, “Christian” and Catholic – the millenial graduates of the different sectors of our school system have been surveyed with surprising results.

A nationally representative sample of 4,913 adults (ages 25 to 39) who completed secondary school in Australia between 1998 and 2011, were surveyed between October and December 2019. The survey was based on an international system called the Cardus Education Survey which measures diverse education systems.

The Cardus Education Survey Australia found that:

  • Christian (80 per cent) and Catholic (87 per cent) school graduates were more likely to report an emphasis on religious values than Government (21 per cent) and Independent (65 per cent) school graduates.
  • Christian school graduates were also most likely to feel their school prepared them to find a sense of meaning and purpose in life (74 per cent).
  • Catholic school graduates had the highest annual household incomes (bearing in mind we are talking about people aged 25 to 39).
  • Independent school graduates had completed the highest levels of post-secondary school qualifications.

In this survey, the term “Christian School” is defined in a particular way as “Schools explicitly seeking to be described as Christian and aligned with one of six Australian Christian school associations – Adventist Schools Australia (ASA), Associated Christian Schools (ACS), Australian Association of Christian Schools (AACS), Christian Education National (CEN), Christian Schools Australia (CSA) and Swan Christian Education Association (SCEA).”

In this report, Eternity will use the term “Christian” when referring to that school sector, but we should note there are many other schools which would regard themselves as “explicitly Christian” and, in some cases, also being very similar to the schools in those six groups. The Cardus Education Survey was funded by the six Australian Christian schools associations referenced in the earlier description.

Possibly the survey’s most controversial finding is that “more than three in four millennial graduates from Catholic (80 per cent), Independent (79 per cent) and Christian schools (75 per cent) believe their school emphasised academic excellence. Three in five Government school graduates feel the same (61 per cent).”

Similar figures are reported for preparation for tertiary education: “Three in five Government school graduates (60 per cent) feel prepared by their school for academic success at university. Christian (75 per cent), Independent (74 per cent), and Catholic (73 per cent) school graduates, however, are more likely to feel prepared for future academic success.”

Asked whether spiritual/religious values were emphasised at their school, 87 per cent of the Catholic graduates responded positively, 80 per cent from Christian schools, 65 per cent at Independent schools and, predictably perhaps, a lower score at 21 per cent for Government school graduates.

Active membership of a church or religious group is reported by 45 per cent of the Christian school millennials,  25 per cent of the Independents, 24 per cent of the Catholics and 16 per cent of the Government school graduates. Church attendance, at least monthly during the previous 12 months, has “Christian” school grads on 40 per cent, Independents on 23 per cent, Catholics on 16 per cent and Government school grads on 14 per cent.

A surprising result is trade union membership, with Christian school graduates at 20 per cent, Independents 16 per cent, Catholics 12 per cent and Government School grads at 10 per cent.


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