Education in Australia

In 2009, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) ranked the Australian education system as 6th for reading, 7th for science and 9th for mathematics. In 2012, Pearson, the largest education company and the largest book publisher in the world, ranked Australian education as thirteenth in the world. In 2008, the Education Index, published with the UN's Human Development Index, lists Australia as 0.993, the highest in the world.

The academic year in Australia generally runs from late January /early February until early / mid-December for primary and secondary schools (with slight variations for TAFE institutes or colleges) and from late February until mid-November for universities.

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Enrolments - Primary to Secondary

Primary

Kindergarten (QLD): 3-4 year olds
Pre-school / Kindergarten / Prep (ACT, NT, NSW and SA / TAS, VIC and WA / QLD): 4-5 year olds
Kindergarten / Preparatory / Pre-Primary / Reception / Transition (ACT and NSW / TAS, VIC and QLD / WA / SA / NT): 5-6 year olds
Year 1: 6-7 year olds
Year 2: 7-8 year olds
Year 3: 8-9 year olds
Year 4: 9-10 year olds
Year 5: 10-11 year olds
Year 6: 11-12 year olds
Year 7: 12-13 year olds (QLD, SA, WA)

Secondary

Year 7: 12-13 year olds (ACT, NSW, TAS, VIC) (Middle School NT)
Year 8: 13-14 year olds
Year 9: 14-15 year olds
Year 10: 15-16 year olds (High School NT)
Year 11: 16-17 year olds (College ACT)
Year 12: 17-19 year olds

Education System - Primary and Secondary

Generally, education in Australia follows the three-tier model which includes primary education (primary schools), followed by secondary education (secondary schools/high schools) and tertiary education (universities or TAFE Colleges).

There are two broad categories of schools in Australia: public schools (also known as 'Government' or 'State' schools because they are run by state or territory governments) and private schools including Independent schools and Catholic schools. All schools get funding from federal government according to a formula depending on school sector, Socio Economic Status background of students and so on. Unlike Catholic schools, independent schools are not affiliated with any church or other agency. In Australia, the independent school sector makes up about a third of the private school sector. The Catholic school sector makes up the remaining two thirds.

Education within public schools is largely free. However, most public schools do require a small voluntary annual fee to be paid and parents usually have to purchase uniforms and pay for excursions and some instances items such as textbooks. Most public schools are co-educational, meaning both sexes are present within a class. Since private schools receive less funding from government, private schools charge tuition fees. The fees vary a lot ($1,000 - $20,000+) depending on the student's year level and the school's size. Larger independent schools charge higher tuition fees. Private school uniforms tend to be more expensive than those for public schools, and more strictly enforced. Regardless of whether a school is government or private, it is regulated by the same curriculum standards framework; International students need to pay school tuition fees.

Government schools can be divided into two categories: open and selective school. The open schools accept all students from their government-defined catchment areas. Many open government schools have selective classes or accelerated learning programs. These schools cater for high achieving, academically talented students by providing an educationally enriched environment. They have high entrance requirements and cater to a much larger area. Entrance to selective schools is very competitive. See Selective Schools, Select Entry Test Format, NSW Select High School Entry Scores.

In Victoria, a number of government high schools offer programs for very able students which accelerate them through high school and reduce secondary schooling from six years to five years. Entrance is by examination, interview and teacher reference. See Acceleration Class.

Education export is Australia's third-biggest earner ($13 billion) after iron ore and coal and potentially it's the biggest if the resources boom goes bust. Of the 80,000 international students welcomed each year from all over the world – the third highest intake after the UK and USA – 12,000 come for secondary school education.

Education in Australia is compulsory between the ages of six and fifteen to seventeen, depending on the state or territory, and date of birth.

Find top primary and secondary schools and their rankings / ratings

Education System - Tertiary / Higher Education

In Australia, tertiary education or higher education is provided by public and private universities, private higher education providers, public TAFE (Technical And Further Education) and private Vocational Education and Training (VET) providers. The latter two focus on VET. Public universities are funded predominantly by the federal government but they are predominantly owned by the state or territory governments. TAFE Institutes or colleges are owned, operated and financed by the various state or territory governments.

Univerities are self‑accrediting institutions. This means that they are responsible for determining the curriculum and content for the courses they offer. Most domestic students undertaking a bachelor degree at a public university are enrolled in a Commonwealth supported place (CSP) and pay 'student contributions' rather than tuition fees. Private universities mainly offer fee paying places and must be approved by the Australian Government to offer Commonwealth supported places in 'national priority' areas. Eligible students studying in a CSP may be able to study now and pay later by using a HECS‑HELP loan to pay their student contributions. Eligible fee paying students can also study now and pay later by using a FEE‑HELP loan to pay their tuition fees.

Open Universities Australia (OUA) provides distance education to tertiary students. OUA is owned and operated by a consortium of Australian universities and offers tertiary students a chance to undertake higher education study regardless of their ATAR, previous education, age or location. FEE‑HELP loans are available to eligible students for both undergraduate and postgraduate units of study undertaken through OUA.

The private higher education institutions are generally privately funded, non‑university higher education providers which offer a range of fee paying courses leading to a higher education award course (generally at the bachelor degree level and above). These private higher education providers have been approved by the Australian Government to offer FEE‑HELP loans to eligible students. Only a few of these providers have been approved by the Australian Government to offer Commonwealth supported places in 'national priority' areas. For example, Australian Institute of Business (AIB).

To access Commonwealth assistance, either a Commonwealth supported place CSP or a HELP (HECS-HELP, FEE-HELP or VET FEE-HELP) loan, students must be enrolled with an eligible Australian education provider. Eligible providers are categorised as universities, approved private higher education providers, Open Universities Australia (OUA) or an approved Vocational Education and Training (VET) provider.

More data at Universities, TAFE, Institutes, Colleges and Commonwealth Assistance HELP.

Australian Qualifications Framework

Post-compulsory education is regulated within the Australian Qualifications Framework, a unified system of national qualifications in universities, TAFE (Technical And Further Education), other higher education or Vocational Education and Training (VET) sectors and schools.