One interesting piece of information in the education debate surfaced yesterday. This was a study of disadvantaged kids undertaken by ACER for the Smith Family, which found that, on average, they underestimated the level of education required for the jobs they hoped to get and, correspondingly, planned to finish education too early. This was true both for boys (who mostly wanted trade jobs) and for girls (who were hoping for professional jobs). You can get the whole study here (PDF).
On the whole, this does not look good for Howard’s suggestion that leaving school at year 10 is a sensible idea. Of course, there are exceptions. If you have a job lined up, with a skilled trade apprenticeship and TAFE entry, this makes sense. But in this rare case, you probably don’t need the PM’s advice. The actual labour market experience, and educational attainment, of people who leave school in Year 10 is, in general, far less favorable than this.
Conversely, if the idea that parents are too concerned with encouraging their kids to go university had any basis, it would presumably be reflected in a decline in the wage premium for university graduates. No such premium decline was observed during the 1990s, despite the huge expansion in graduate numbers. Now that the number of domestic students has been held fixed for nearly a decade, it is likely that the premium is rising.