The Productivity Commission says school attendance and retention rates are showing a long-term decline. 

According to the commission’s new report, there has been a noticeable drop in the engagement of Australians aged 15 to 24 in education or training, with rates falling to 61.1 per cent in 2023 from 62.8 per cent the previous year. 

This decline is particularly pronounced among 15- to 19-year-olds, where attendance is down almost two percentage points from the previous year's figures.

The report shows the challenges in meeting the government's target to have 55 per cent of young Australians attain a university degree within the next decade - a goal requiring an additional 900,000 university enrolments. 

Further, the report details a drop in the proportion of 20- to 64-year-olds holding a qualification at certificate III level or above, indicating a broader issue with the Australian education system's capacity to prepare students for higher education and the workforce.

Geographical disparities in education are also significant, with attendance rates in major cities far outpacing those in remote and very remote areas. 

The gap is particularly stark in the Northern Territory's very remote areas, where only 51.8 per cent of students regularly attended school from years one to 10.

The report also brings attention to the funding disparities between public and private schools, with private school funding increasing at almost twice the rate of public school funding despite the larger proportion of disadvantaged students in the public system.

Indigenous students and those from remote areas are particularly affected by these trends, with Indigenous students showing more than double the dropout rates of non-Indigenous students and significantly lower attendance rates.