Education in Australia

From Academic Kids

Education in Australia follows a three tier model: primary, secondary and tertiary education. Education is primarily regulated by the individual state governments, not federal government.

There are two main types of school in Australia. Government schools (also known as State schools, or public schools) are the most numerous, which charge no compulsory fees (although most assume all students will pay a small set payment). Private schools, be they religious or secular (the latter often with specializations), charge much higher fees.

Public schools can be divided into two types, open and selective. The open schools accept all students from their government defined catchment areas, while selective schools have high enterence requirements and cater to a much larger area.

Private schools can also be divided into two groups. By far the most numerous are Catholic schools. The rest are known as Independent Schools, which are largely Protestant grammar schools and lower key religious schools.

The most prestigous schools are the private grammar schools, with the selective High Schools close behind. The prestige itself, unlike some other countries, confers no assistance to university entrance; but students from the prestigous schools tend to get higher than average Equivilent National Tertiary Entrance Rank scores. However, this slight advantage does not appear to equate to superior university performance. A recent study found that students from Independent schools are more likely to drop out in the first year of university than those from Public schools.

Most school students in Australia wear uniforms, although there are many exceptions. Private schools tend to have stricter dress codes than government schools do. Uniforms in Queensland and the Northern Territory are less formal than those in the southern states, due to the conditions of heat and humidity throughout most of the year.

OECD data shows that all member countries have problems with adult literacy, and in Australia one in five adults do not have the literacy skills to effectively participate in daily lifeTemplate:Ref


Pre-Primary Education

This tier is relatively unregulated, and is not compulsory.

The first exposure many Australians have to learning things with others outside of traditional parenting is day care or a parent run playgroup. This sort of activity is not considering "schooling".

The first structured classes Australians take is in a sector called Kindergarten (Kinder) in most states and territories, but called Pre-School in New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory (and occasionly elsewhere), and takes the sequential names Kindergarten and Pre-Primary in Western Australia.

  • Turning Three

This is called "Three Year Old Kinder" in many places. This year takes the form of a few hours of activity twice or three times a week. Most children do not attend this year.

  • Turning Four

This year, and this year alone is called "Kindergarten" in WA. This is called "Four Year Old Kinder" in many places. This year takes the form of a few hours of activity twice or three times a week. Most children do not attend this year.

  • Turning Five

This year is far more commonly attended, and is what is known as "Kinder" or "Pre-School" to most people. In WA, it is known as "Pre-Primary". It usually takes the form of a few hours of activity five days a week.

In all states and territories except Western Australia, nearly all schools in this sector are completely separate from primary schools. In that state, most "pre-primary" education is taught as part of the primary school system. In the Northern Territory, they are usually run by the territory. Most pre-primary schools in the rest of Australia are run by local councils, community groups and private organisations.

Primary Education

Primary education usually consists of seven years of school education, although this varies between states. These years also have different names in different states.

In New South Wales the first year of primary education is known as "Kindergarten", which is followed by "Year 1", "Year 2", and so on, up to "Year 6".

In Victoria, primary school consists of "Prep" (Prepatory) to Grade 6.

In Queensland, primary school is Grades 1 to 7.

In Western Australia, primary school consists of "Kindergarten", followed by "Pre-primary" and then "Year 1" through to "Year 7". This Kindergarten is the equivilent of Kindergarten or Pre-School offered in other states.

In South Australia, the first year of primary school is called "Reception" followed by Years 1 to 7 inclusive.

In the Northern Territory, the first year is called "Preperation" and is followed by Years 1 to 7. Except in Alice Springs, where it only continues to Year 6.

The term "Prep" is to be introduced throughout Australia over 2005 to 2007.

Note that these are only general rules - there are exceptions. For example, there are a number of "middle schools" which generally cover Years 6 to 8.

Secondary Education

In Australia, secondary schools are generally referred to as high schools. Most high schools in Victoria have been formally known by the name secondary college or just college since 1989, but they are still more commonly refered to as "high schools".

The exact length of secondary school varies from state to state, with New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, the ACT and the Alice Springs area teaching Years 7-12, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and most of the Northern Territory teaching Years 8-12 (Grades 8-12 in Queensland). Some schools in South Australia and the Northern Territory also have a Year 13 for students wishing more time to finish their leaving certificate.

Again, there are exceptions; mainly "middle schools" and "senior schools". The later generally cover Years 11 and 12.

Each state has laws specifying the conditions under which children no longer have to attend school. Generally, children must remain enrolled in high school until age fifteen or completion of Year 10.

At the end of high schooling, students have an aggregate mark or rank calculated, based upon both school assessment and/or final exams. Selection for entry into tertiary education courses is usually based upon such an index.

Usually, students choose to undertake their state's version of the Senior Secondary Certificate of Education (SSCE), however there are competing systems, such as the International Baccalaureate Diploma and the higher levels of Accelerated Christian Education.

Syllabi and assessment are specified and overseen by the relevant authority in each state. In Victoria this is the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA), in NSW the Board of Studies, in Queensland the Queensland Studies Authority (QSA), in Western Australia the Curriculum Council, and in South Australia the Senior Secondary Assessment Board of South Australia (SSABSA).

Additionally, students wishing to enter most medical (including dental) courses must also complete the Undergraduate Medicine and Health Sciences Admission Test (UMAT).

School governance has been influenced by the work of Caldwell and Spinks. In essence the thrust of the work of these researchers and thinkers has been to enhance local self management of schools. Introduced across Victoria between 1992 and 1995, school self management dramatically enhanced the role of the principal and the school council. At the time of introduction, the changes in governance were linked with politically inspired budget cuts and the unholy wedding thus achieved has sullied the reception of self management, particularly with teacher unions.

Selective government schools are common in New South Wales, but rare elsewhere. They accept only the most academically talented students. Largely because of this, these schools are usually among the top achievers in the SSCE exams. The prestige of these schools mean that their vacancies are well sought after, and their entry exams are highly competitive. They are often seen as an educationally equal, but much cheaper alternative, to private grammer schools.

Tertiary education

Classification of tertiary qualifications

In Australia, the classification of tertiary qualifications is governed in part by the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF), which attempts to integrate into a single classification all levels of tertiary education (both vocational and higher education), from trade certificates to higher doctorates.

However, as Australian universities (and a few similar higher education institutions) largely regulate their own courses, the primary usage of AQF is for vocational education. However in recent years there have been some informal moves towards standardization between higher education institutions.

In Australia, higher education awards are classified as follows:

  • Bachelors degrees, generally the first university degree undertaken, which take 3 or 4 years to complete, and consist primarily of coursework. Bachelors degrees are normally awarded with honours to the best performing students.

In some courses, honours is awarded on the basis of performance throughout the course (usually in 4yr+ courses), but normally honours consists of undertaking a year of research (like a short thesis or Masters by Research). If honours is undertaken as an extra year it is known as an honours degree rather than a degree with honours.

Honours may be divided into First Class, Second Class (normally divided into Division I and Division II) and Third Class. This is roughly equivalent to the American classification of cum laude, summa cum laude, and magna cum laude. Individuals who do not attempt honours or who fail their honours course are awarded a degree with a grade of Pass.

  • Masters degrees, which are undertaken after the completion of one or more Bachelors degrees. Masters degrees deal with a subject at a more advanced level than Bachelors degrees, and can consist either of research, coursework, or a mixture of the two.
  • Doctorates, most famously Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), which are undertaken after a Honours Bachelors or Masters degree, by an original research project resulting in a thesis or dissertation. Admission to candidature for a PhD generally requires either a Bachelor's degree with good honours (First Class or Second Class Division I), or a Masters degree with a research component.

In many cases a student with only a Pass Bachelor's degree can enroll in a Masters program and then transfer to a PhD. Australian PhDs do not tend to take as long as American or British ones, and consist of less coursework than most American PhDs. There are also professional doctorates which consist of advanced coursework and a substantial project in an area such as education (DEd). There is no concept of a "first-professional doctorate" like those awarded in the United States.

  • Higher Doctorates, such as Doctor of Science (DSc) or Doctor of Letters (DLitt), which are awarded on the basis of a record of original research or of publications, over many years (often at least 10).

Australian Universities tend to award more named degrees than institutions in some other countries. Most Australian universities offer several different named degrees per a faculty. This is primarily for marketing purposes. Universities often try to outdo each other by offering the only degree titled with a popular major.

By contrast, at an undergraduate level at Oxford University, almost all students complete a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), even if they are studying areas such as Chemistry or Economics, whereas at most Australian institutions only students choosing to concentrate in the humanities would be awarded a B.A. However, although there is a large proliferation at the level of Bachelors and Masters, at the Doctorate and Higher Doctorate level most institutions only have four or five degrees in all, and almost all Doctorates are PhDs.

Unlike American institutions, where most medical doctors or lawyers will graduate with an M.D. or J.D., medical doctors and lawyers in Australia generally only graduate with Bachelor's degrees. In Australia, a degree of Doctor is only awarded after original research or honoris causa, although by custom medical doctors are permitted to assume that title without having completed a doctorate.

In the case of medical doctors, the most common award is M.B.B.S., the double degree of Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (this is similar to the case in Britain). The most common award for lawyers is LL.B. or BLaws (which are both abbreviations, one Latin and the other English, for Bachelor of Laws).

Traditionally in Australia, medical degrees were commenced immediately after secondary education, unlike in the United States where student generally complete an undergraduate degree first before going to medical school. However, some universities are have introduced graduate entry only degrees in medicine, but these are still classified as Bachelors degrees.

Law is commonly studied as a combined degree, such as with Arts or Science (BA/LLB, BSci/LLB), with only a small number of places avaliable for a 'straight' law degree. The large number of combined courses enable students to develop skills in a diverse range of areas. Another common combination is Commerce and Law, which opens up many positions in business, commerce and industry. The Law degree is Australia is seeing less graduates going on to become practicing Lawyers, instead many taking work in private industry or government sectors.

Australian Bachelor's degrees are commonly only 3 years, unlike the 4 year degrees found in the United States, although some institutions offer 4 year degrees as well. The length of the degree usually depends on the field of study, for example engineering usually takes four years while medicine takes six. Combined degrees are also available and usually add an extra year of study. Australian universities tend to have less of an emphasis on a liberal education than many universities in the US, which is reflected in the shorter length of Australian degrees.

Associate Degrees have recently been introduced. These generally take two years to complete and can be seen as equivalent to the Associate's Degree in the US and the Foundation Degree in the UK. They are also equivilent to the older Australian qualifications the Diploma and the Advanced Diploma.

Vocational education – Technical and Further Education

The major providers of vocational education in Australia are the various state-administered Institutes of Technical and Further Education or TAFE across the country. TAFE institutions generally offer short courses, Certificates I, II, III, and IV, Diplomas, and Advanced Diplomas in a wide range of vocational topics. They also sometimes offer Higher Education courses, especially in Victoria.


Like in other countries, both private and public universities can be found in Australia; as of 2004, there are 36 public, 2 Catholic and 1 other private universities in Australia. Admissions by Australian citizens to public and Catholic universities in Australia are based on the prospective student's academic achievement as well as the ability to afford tuition. Admission to the other private university by Australians and admission by prospective international students to any university is primarily dependant on their ability to pay their fees.

Domestic students are not necessarily subject to up-front fees at a public university if enrolled in a Commonwealth Supported Place (CSP), but rather contribute toward their education via the HECS-HELP scheme, and may make a contribution or defer tuition completely. Students may also enroll in a non-Commonwealth Supported Place, known as a FULL-FEE place, and must pay all upfront fees, which are typically greater than a standard HECS-HELP debt, usually undertaken to reduce academic entrance requirements. Additionally, a compulsory upfront student services fee is usually charged although this will most likely change with the impending introduction of Voluntary Student Unionism. There are usually other compulsory up-front costs, for textbooks, materials and the like.

It is important to note that, unlike in other countries such as the USA, public universities in Australia are more prestigious than their few private counterparts. All the members of the Group of Eight, Australian Technology Network and Innovative Research Universities Australia are public universities.

See also


External links

ko:오스트레일리아의 교육제도 pl:Oświata w Australii


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