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Education statistics and the future of education in Australia

by Chloe Baird
Posted: March 31, 2021

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It’s proven that increasing education can improve the overall health and longevity of a population, aid the growth of economies, and boost the overall quality of life for many.

What do Australia’s education statistics mean, and how will emerging trends affect the future of education in Australia? What does online education mean for the next generation of Australia’s workers? And what are the pros and cons of online learning?

Child using computer

Australian education statistics

Here are some stats from the Australian Bureau of Statistics:

  • 63% of Australians hold a non-school qualification.
  • 24% of Australians hold multiple qualifications.
  • 40% of people aged 15-64 years who are studying for a non-school qualification are working towards a bachelor degree. 18% are pursuing post-graduate studies (including graduate diplomas and graduate certificates), and 19% are studying for a certificate III or IV. 
  • The amount of women who already hold a qualification has increased. 70% of women in Australia hold a qualification compared to 68% of men.
  • In the 2016 Census, information showed that 56% of Aussies aged 15 and over (9.6 million) held a non-school qualification. This was up by 10% from 2006.
  • The highest growth categories for qualifications were accounting, then general nursing, followed by business management, aged care and children’s services.

There could be a few reasons for more and more Australians pursing higher education in recent years. It could be because online education has opened up doors for many, offering a more accessible, more affordable alternative for some – especially those who are unable to travel to a physical campus, or have other commitments they need to balance as well as study.

It could also be that many people pursue a qualification these days in order to upskill and stay ahead in their industry, or because they want to retrain and move into a different industry all together.

It’s no longer common for most Aussies to stay in the same job for their entire working life. Switching careers is no longer taboo; and with online education offering a flexible and convenient solution to obtaining a qualification, this has removed some of the barriers for people looking to change careers.

The future of education in Australia

A report from McCrindle revealed that Gen Z (born 1995-2009) workers could have up to 17 jobs across 5 careers in their lifetime.

And in a report commissioned by ACS, it was estimated that 21% of the Australian workforce could be replaced by technology by 2034. “Education and re-skilling the workforce is crucial to prevent long-term structural unemployment and rising inequality,” states the report. “By 2034, a labour force gap of 700K could exist while 400K people could face structural unemployment as they are unable to adapt to changing job requirements.”

While this prediction seems a little daunting, it doesn’t need to be. Instead of seeing this as a warning of what’s to come, education providers need to make sure that they’re ready and able to adapt their supply to meet demand. Because as the report goes on to point out, “Technology adoption and implementation could lead to an additional 1.2 million new tech jobs by 2034.” But in order to fill those positions, Australian workers need to have the right training and skills.

By providing accessible, online courses and qualifications, educators can help the next generation of the Australian workforce adapt to changes as needed and upskill to remain competitive.

What impact does online learning have for education in Australia?

An increasing number of people are turning to online education as an accessible, convenient way to pursue further education.

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw Australian schools quickly pivot and adapt to transform in-classroom curriculum into an online format.

While online education has been gaining popularity in Australia for many years, this was further proof that education could be successfully delivered online.

Online education today is less about converting a classroom lecture into an online format, and more about creating an interactive experience for online learners.

As technology continues to evolve and shape our lives, so to will the ways in which we deliver online learning to better suit tomorrow’s students.

Person learning from home

Pros and cons of online learning

Pro: it’s flexible

Studying a course online means that you can study wherever, whenever. You can study at home on the couch after the kids have gone to bed; on the train on your morning commute; or whenever you have some free time to yourself and want to make the most of it.

Con: you need to be self-disciplined

While studying online means that you don’t need to play by anyone else’s rules, you still need to stick to a schedule so that you can get your course completed in time. Because if you don’t complete your course within the stated timeframe, you won’t obtain your qualification.

Pro: study at your own pace

Without regular classes to attend or a timetable to follow, you’re free to study at your own pace. This means you can go above and beyond and push yourself to finish your course in record time. Or you can set out a specific amount of hours every week and commit to that, and finish your course over a longer period.

Con: you’re not studying alongside other classmates

Some people really enjoy studying on campus for the same reason others prefer to study online: you get to study alongside other people.

A classroom environment can be great for establishing comradery and healthy competition. This is what some students need to help them stay focused and disciplined.

To combat this perceived downside to online learning, OC has a number of forums its online students can join to chat to others and swap ideas with fellow students. We also have a Study Buddy system, where you can connect with other like-minded students and find a partner to keep you motivated.

Pro: it proves that you have skills employers want

Time management skills, self-discipline, initiative and organisational skills: you need all of these and more to complete an online qualification. Employers know that, and they’ll be on the lookout for job candidates with these skills.

Con: not everyone is cut out for online study

The truth is, not everyone will excel at online study. Some people learn better in a classroom environment, while others do better online. Some simply prefer a bricks-and-mortar classroom to an online environment. So even though there are plenty of reasons why online study is a great choice for so many, it’s unlikely we’ll see the complete disappearance of our TAFE and uni campuses any time soon.

Why study an online course with OC?

OC offers a number of online courses, both nationally recognised qualifications and short courses. Our courses cover a wide range of in-demand fields, such as accounting, business management, nursing, community services and more.

Our nationally recognised qualifications have all be developed with the assistance of industry experts, and have been designed to meet industry demand. This means you’ll be learning in-demand skills employers are looking out for.

Not sure which which career to follow? Take our career quiz and find out which career area would be best suited to your personality.

Or do you have a course in mind but aren’t sure if it’s the right one for you? You can sign up to our 7 day free course trial to see what online study is like with us first hand.

Study a course with OC and take the first step towards unlocking your potential.


Chloe Baird

Chloe is an Open Colleges alumnus who now works full time for OC as a Content and Copywriting Specialist. She is passionate about encouraging others to pursue their goals through education.

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