Education and Child Development

The Melbourne Institute provides crucial intelligence to government policymakers and the education sector, helping to improve Australians’ educational outcomes and support positive life trajectories.

Education is one of the most important determinants of life outcomes such as employment, income, health, wellbeing and intellectual and emotional development. The quality of the education system and how we raise our children can strengthen child development and play a critical role in the opportunities they will have in life.

Undertaking best practices in schooling can help reset the pathways of children in environments that make them vulnerable and less likely to achieve their potential, as well as help save public resource spending on healthcare, welfare services and the criminal justice system.

Our internationally recognised research team examines the formation of skills through multiple dimensions, from early education through to vocational training and the transition to further education and employment. We run randomized experiments and undertake field studies to test ideas and inform the design of policy and practice aimed at improving child and student outcomes. Our work includes collaborations with the Victorian Department of Education and Training, the Commonwealth Department of Education, schools, non-profits and other research groups interested in child and/or student development.


  • Design and performance of the education system

    We’re assessing the nuances of school performance by analysing national student achievement data alongside multi-dimensional behavioural research, which gauges students’ attitudes to and engagement with learning.

    Our researchers are working to determine the impact of the public release of school performance data by studying schools’ and parents’ responses to the My School website, and whether the availability of comparable performance data unlocks the intended benefits of competition between schools.

  • Determinants of student achievement and engagement

    Our research addresses the many factors determining student achievement and engagement in education, including:

    • Students’ attitudes to school and learning
    • Students’ engagement in class and extracurricular activities
    • The role of the family and barriers to parents’ engagement in their children's education
    • Peer effects on student achievement
    • Students’ behaviour and how this affects their decision-making.

    We’re working to determine the stages of a child’s upbringing at which interventions have the most powerful impact on achievement and engagement, helping policymakers to ensure programs have a lasting outcome.

  • Effects of disadvantage on student outcomes and development

    We’re scrutinising the complex relationship between socio-economic status and student outcomes, and the myriad ways in which disadvantage contributes to poor social mobility across the whole life cycle. Our research provides vital insights into the impact of different educational models, as well as the effect of intergenerational disadvantage on child development.

    Our expert economists work alongside a multidisciplinary team to assess the outcomes of intervention programs for children experiencing disadvantage. By providing essential evidence of program outcomes and their effectiveness, we help policymakers prioritise programs with a proven impact.

  • Transition to further education and employment

    By investigating the links between early education, higher education, vocational education and employment, our researchers are generating crucial evidence to support government policymakers in education funding decisions.

    Our research probes a wide range of factors related to students’ post-school pathways including:

    • Higher education funding and the impact of the demand-driven system
    • The role of higher education and vocational programs in supporting the skills required for the future labour force
    • Lifelong learning and the barriers mature age learners face
    • Government incentive schemes, particularly in relation to mature age learners and apprentices
    • Optimising the use of information to support student choice of career and post-secondary education pathways.

Program Details


Program Coordinator: Professor Marco Castillo

Research staff

Partnerships and Funding

This program is funded through grants and research contracts provided by a variety of sources, including the ARC and the Victorian Government’s Department of Education and Training.


Working Papers

Research Insights