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Catholic schools top the class

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NCEC head Jacinta Collins, second from right, says schools must recommit to serve the poor. Photo: Supplied
NCEC head Jacinta Collins, centre, says schools must recommit to serve the poor. Photo: NCEC

Surveys show that graduates report better life satisfaction though challenges remain

The head of the National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC) has told a luncheon of business leaders, long-term data is showing that Catholic school graduates have the highest incomes, work more hours per week and enjoy higher life satisfaction than graduates of public and independent schools.

The NCEC’s Executive Director, Jacinta Collins made the comments in a recent address to the Sydney Catholic Business Network which hosts regular events bringing together business, community and Catholic leaders from across the city.

Ms Collins told the network, from humble beginnings 200 years ago, Catholic education has grown to become the largest schooling provider outside government and the latest data shows it has much to be proud of.

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“The Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth, which tracked the cohort who entered kindergarten in an Australian schools in 2009, found that Catholic school graduates had the highest incomes, earning 12 percent more than government school graduates. The data also found that Catholic school graduates work more hours per week than independent and government school leavers; and for life satisfaction, Catholic school graduates rate themselves as happier than independent and government school leavers”, Ms Collins explained.

As a former Victorian senator who was a cabinet minister when Labor was last in government, Ms Collins reflected at length on some of the opportunities and challenges the Catholic schools sector is currently facing in Australia.

“There’s barely a week that goes without an article or commentary in the media debating school funding and calling for funding to non-government schools to be reduced or stopped altogether”, Ms Collins said.


“Thankfully, we maintain support from the two major parties, and the public at large, for school choice for parents, although the recent election does present some challenges with a fresh contingent of ‘teal’ independents whose perspectives on non-government schooling are yet to be fully canvassed”.

“An ongoing challenge for Catholic education is the growing Greens presence whose policies have needed to be neutralised in the past. Additionally, the complexity of the current funding model makes it difficult to defend; the opposition to the introduction of a Religious Discrimination Bill and the impact on our mission and ethos; and a vocal secularist movement leave us exposed”, Ms Collins added.

The NCEC head believes one of the greatest strengths of the Catholic school system has been its commitment to educating everyone across social and economic backgrounds and Ms Collins believes it’s time to renew this commitment again in contemporary society.

“In our earliest days, Catholic schools were originally established to educate the poor and most vulnerable in society. While the ‘preferential option for the poor’ is still a valued aspiration for Catholic education, we increasingly have found ourselves more available to families from middle class backgrounds”, Ms Collins explained.

“We know that students from lower income backgrounds, students with disability and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are under-represented in our schools. There are a number of reasons for this including limited capital support to grow and build new Catholic schools in some areas and changing demographics. However we also need to consider how we can remove barriers to enrolment to be more welcoming and inclusive, and to better meet the needs of students and families from all backgrounds”.

You can find out more about the Sydney Catholic Business Network including membership information here

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