Australian Schools

Australia's education system has been consistently recognised as one of the best in the world in recent years. In 2008, the UN Human Development Index ranked the Australian education system as the joint best in the world, alongside Denmark and Finland.

The world education rankings as determined by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ranked the Australian system 7th overall; in comparison, the UK's education system was ranked as the 11th best in the world.

The OECD rankings also break down rankings per area:

OECD Reading Rankings OECD Maths Rankings OECD Science Rankings
  Source: OECD 2010  

In this section we will look at the three stages of the Australian education system and how to register children in an Australian school.

Schools in Australia

The school year usually runs from late January to mid-December with four separate terms and the main six week summer holiday taking place over the Christmas period. The other three holidays are typically two weeks long and occur at similar times throughout the year across all states and territories.

Australian school kids

Compulsory education begins at either age five or six depending on the state or territory and ends at between 15 or 17 years of age. However, over 75% of students in Australia remain in full time education until they are 17.

School uniform policy is similar to the UK although many schools' uniforms, particularly those in hotter areas, will simply be a polo shirt and shorts.

Religions will typically be taught side by side in state run schools but some will obviously be given greater precedence in religious schools. Catholic schools account for the majority of religious schools, although there are other Christian denominations represented as well as several Jewish and Islamic schools around the country.

The education system as a whole follows a three tier system: primary, secondary and tertiary.

Education in Australia is not handled at a federal level, meaning the national government does not set curriculum. Each state or territory is responsible for the funding and curriculum of its own students and each has its own rules and regulations.

However, some core subjects are taught nationwide:

  • Mathematics
  • English
  • Social and environmental studies
  • Science
  • Arts
  • Languages other than English (LOTE)
  • Technology
  • Personal development, health and physical education

As students move through the school years, courses of study become more customisable and students in secondary school can typically pick from further courses including:

  • Graphic design
  • Woodwork
  • Aviation
  • Geography
  • Computing
  • Textiles and design

Early Education and Preschool

Preschool is not compulsory but many children will typically attend between the ages of three and five. Priority is usually given to socialisation and establishments will be state or territory-funded establishments run by local councils or community groups.

While attendance is not compulsory, over 85% of children will attend at least one year before beginning primary education.

The cost of childcare varies greatly from place to place as well as the service offered.

Here is a partial list of price ranges, the full list of average prices can be found here.

Average costs of childcare in Australia

Primary School

Children will typically attend primary school between the ages of five and 13, depending on the state or territory. Each year will be labelled either as Grade or Year with all students being required to prove a level of ability in order to progress to the next year; unlike in the UK, students can be kept behind another year or skipped forward a year depending on their level of ability.

The school day will typically run from 9.00am to 3.30pm.

Secondary School

Students will typically attend high school between the ages of 12 and 18, although in some states attendance becomes voluntary after the age of 15. Several schools will offer vocational training or apprenticeships.

The difference in education between states and territories becomes much more obvious at high school level, particularly the leaving age and what constitutes high school and college.

Qualifications by state/territory

Registering a child in Australia

Each state and territory has different processes and requirements involved in enrolling your child in a school, check the appropriate links to find the relevant information state by state.

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