There is a well-known association between education and wellbeing, which is important throughout the life course. The relationship is complex and it appears that most of it is due to our level of education affecting our employment, income and health . For example, educational attainment strongly predicts health literacy, and the skills, knowledge and confidence needed to access and use health and social care services . Differences in educational attainment between different population groups also provide information about access to education and the equity, or fairness, of the education system.
By participating in early childhood education, young children are prepared socially and academically for their transition to primary school. Engagement in primary and secondary education facilitates the development of the knowledge, understanding and skills needed by children and young people to function successfully in the modern world . People who achieve higher educational qualifications tend to earn more, which allows them to maintain better health, participate more in community life and live in better-quality housing [4-6]. In addition, their children tend to go further in their own education.
Education is a resource for life that, apart from providing qualifications and facilitating future employment, can have broader beneficial impacts on health and wellbeing through for example developing values, emotional intelligence, self-esteem, and social skills.
Key trends within education
Early Childhood Education (ECE) participation has increased steadily in greater Christchurch over recent years and has consistently remained above the national target of 98 percent (98.6% in 2016). Since the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) was introduced, NCEA Level 2 pass rates for Christchurch City students have been consistently rising and are generally higher than the New Zealand average (82.4% and 80.7% respectively, in 2017). Selwyn District students have achieved at a high level over time (90.3% in 2017). Results in the Waimakariri District have generally been similar to the national average. The Highest Qualification indicator shows that the distribution of qualifications across the greater Christchurch population is broadly similar to the national picture. In greater Christchurch, the NEET rate (the proportion of young people not engaged in employment, education, or training) decreased substantially over the years following the Canterbury earthquakes and remained well below the national rate through to mid-2016. However, the current data indicate that this post-earthquake difference has now dissipated.
Key equity issues within education
Overall, education data show differences across population groups. While differences across geographical areas, ethnicity, and gender are not statistically significant for ECE participation, large and statistically significant differences are evident at the higher education levels when outcomes are considered by ethnicity. European/Pākehā and Asian ethnic groups consistently have higher levels of mid-level to high-level educational attainment than Māori and Pacific ethnic groups. There are also marked differences in NCEA Level 2 achievement when considered by level of socioeconomic disadvantage. The data show a positive correlation between students’ socioeconomic status and NCEA Level 2 achievement, with the proportion of students achieving NCEA Level 2 or higher increasing alongside the level of socioeconomic advantage.
What this means for wellbeing
Overall, the four education indicators presented within this domain show a satisfactory picture for greater Christchurch. Compared to New Zealand overall, the educational achievement of greater Christchurch residents is, overall, strong and consistent.
Strong, consistent and equitable educational achievement is an important determinant of community wellbeing [1,7,8]. However, total population data can conceal differences between population groups, including those seen by socioeconomic status and ethnicity. These differences are important given the known associations between educational achievement and other life-course outcomes.
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