21 April, 2014

Australian Education System - Brief Summary

The Australian Education System in Brief

For a country of 20 million it is remarkable to an outsider, and somewhat less so to the average Australian, that each State and Territory in Australia maintains its own education system - eight systems in total.

Until very recently there has been little or no public discussion at all about how a national secondary standard, for example, might be both more effective and efficient than the current approach. Each of the state and territory curriculums do however share a great deal in common although the exams, assessment processes and the name of the ultimate school leaving certificate may vary. There is also some variation in their approaches to pre-school education and when the transition is made from primary to secondary school.

Primary schooling in most states and territories begins with a preparatory or kindergarten year, followed by six or seven primary grades, then a further five or six years to complete a full secondary course of study. In total, states and territories offer 13 years of schooling (except for Queensland, which currently offers 12 years and is trialling Pre-Year 1 in a small number of schools). The table below shows the consistent pattern across all States and Territories, although there is a confusing variety of names given to Preschool and the first year of schooling, and a variety of entry ages.

Table 1: Basic Structure of Australian Schooling : States and Territories
 

.

Preschool

Preparatory Year before Year 1
(First Year of School)

Primary Schooling

Secondary School

         

ACT

Preschool

Kindergarten

Years 1 – 6

Years 7 – 12

QLD

.

"Preschool" until 2006
"Preparatory" from 2007

Years 1 - 7

Years 8 - 12

NSW

Preschool

Kindergarten

Years 1 – 6

Years 7 – 12

NT

Preschool

Transition

Years 1 – 7

Years 8 - 12

SA

Preschool

Reception

Years 1 – 7

Years 8 - 12

TAS

Kindergarten

Preparatory

Years 1 – 6

Years 7 – 12

VIC

Preschool

Preparatory

Years 1 – 6

Years 7 – 12

WA

Kindergarten

Pre-Primary

Years 1 - 7

Years 8 - 12

 Table 2: Comparison of ages for entry into Programs in Australia
 

.

Entry age into program two years before Year One

Entry age into program one year before Year One

Entry age
into Year One

Compulsory starting age

         

WA

4 by 30 June. Single entry point at beginning of school year

5 by 30 June. Single entry point at beginning of school year

6 by 30 June. Single entry point at beginning of school year

The beginning of the school year in which the child reaches the age of 6 years 6 months

NSW

4 by 31 July

5 by 31 July

6 by 31 July

6th Birthday

VIC

4 by 30 April

5 by 30 April

6 by 30 April

6th Birthday

QLD

4 by 31 December

5 by 31 December

6 by 31 December

6th Birthday

SA

Continuous entry after 4th birthday

Continuous entry after 5th birthday

Single entry in January after 2-5 terms in Reception depending on initial entry

6th Birthday

TAS

4 by 1 January in year of entry

5 by 1 January in year of entry

6 by 1 January

6th Birthday

ACT

4 by 30 April in year of entry

5 by 30 April

6 by 30 April

6th Birthday

NT

Continuous entry after 4th birthday

4 years and 6 months by 1 January

5 years and 6 months by 1 January

6th Birthday

(Source: Western Australian Department of Education 2006)

While the final two years of secondary schooling are not a compulsory stage of education, figures for 2002 show that 88% of full-time secondary students remained at school until Year 11 and 75% remained until Year 12. (ABS)

There is a substantial amount of detail involved in a discussion of eight school systems. What we provide is some general commentary on the different stages of schooling and links to educational sites which provide in depth information in relation to the subject matter.

Primary Schooling

The main focus in early primary education is on the development of basic language and literacy skills, simple arithmetic, moral and social education, health training and some broad creative activities.

The latter primary years focus on building upon the base skills learned in early years, with English, mathematics, social studies, science, music, art and craft, physical education and health being studied. Optional subjects such as religious instruction, foreign languages and music may be studied depending on the school.

Secondary Schooling

In most of the secondary systems, students pursue a general programme of education in the first years at a secondary school, with the number of subjects narrowing to a core group, plus a number of electives chosen by students, in the latter years. In some systems however the students may choose elective subjects from the beginning of secondary school.

The various systems, particularly those applying in the latter part of secondary school can appear very complicated to expatriates just returning from overseas - and this is further compounded by the problems inherent in transitioning a child into the Australian system. If you are moving from the Northern Hemisphere you normally have to consider whether you move your child back a year, or forward a year. Some schools will offer advice in this regard, but it will usually be your decision based on the child's academic success, adaptability and social maturity. This is subject to any rules the school may have in force regarding age cut offs.

If your child is making the transition late in secondary school you might also wish to consider the International Baccalaureate - more and more Australian schools (largely private) are offering this as an option. It is an internationally recognised qualification for University entry and has the advantage of following a September to July school year. To see an up to date list of Australian schools offering the IB go to the www.ibo.org site and the Exfin page devoted to Australian schools offering the International Baccalaaureate.

The following link provides details of all the various Year 12 certificates and University entrance systems in Australia and New Zealand:

http://acaca.bos.nsw.edu.au/go/leaving-school

If you have questions about the operation of the various state or territory systems they should be directed to the various Education boards responsible - see our section: Australian Education Resources. 

IMPORTANT: The material contained in this website and other associated communications is only intended as general, background information and must not be relied upon. No warranty is provided in relation to any material or to the services that may be contracted through exfin.com. It is recommended that individuals seek the advice of qualified professionals before taking any action.