Australian Education System Explained

The Australian education system offers a wide variety of schooling choices for relocating families, in both the state and the private sector and the country’s education system has a good international reputation.

Australian Education System Explained
Australia offers a wide variety of schooling choices for relocating families, in both the state and the private sector. The Australian school system offers a wide range of choices for relocating parents looking for a school for their child. The country’s education system has a good international reputation, scoring well above average in international education league tables.According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, for example, Australian students consistently perform at a level significantly higher than the international average. While end-of-school qualifications, curriculum, and school starting age vary slightly from state and state, the government is in the process of rolling out an Australian national curriculum, to continue to raise standards in education, and to end the inconsistencies.

Australian education system

In parallel with the introduction of the new national curriculum, a new online resource for parents was introduced in 2010; the MySchool website was developed to offer transparent information on all schools in Australia, and to show the results of the standard tests in literacy and numeracy that were developed around the same time. The NAPLAN tests, or the National Assessment Program in Literacy and Numeracy, assess students’ reading, writing, language, and numeracy skills, and are administered by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority.Before NAPLAN and MySchool, there was no nationally-comparable data or single source of data on all schools.Schooling in Australia starts with a kindergarten or preparatory year at around age five to six, varying from state to state, followed by 12 years of primary and secondary school. In the final year of secondary education, Year 12, pupils can study for a government-endorsed certificate, which, again, varies between states, but is recognised by all Australian universities and many international higher-education institutions.The school year is divided into three or four terms, and runs from late January/early February until December.There is a short holiday between terms, and a long summer holiday in December and January. Students attend school from Monday to Friday each week. School hours vary, but are generally from 9.00 am to 3.30 pm each school day.

Choice of schools in Australia

Australia has more than 7,000 government schools and almost 2,000 independent schools, including a selection of single-sex and co-educational schools and faith schools. However, globally-mobile families might be surprised at the lack of international schools in Australia. International schools, which teach in English, are hugely important for expats living in non-English-speaking countries, but they are not so prevalent in English-speaking countries like Australia. British international schools are also in short supply in Australia, as there is little demand for institutions offering an English national curriculum.

An international education in Australia

However, Australia does have independent fee-charging schools with an international focus, a mix of nationalities, and a focus on pastoral care for students in global transition. Independent schools are also more likely to offer an internationally-recognised and transferable qualification, such as the International Baccalaureate (IB).

Final school exams in Australia

For relocating families with older children, final school exams will be a big consideration, and particularly their recognition for entry into international higher education institutions. End-of-school exams differ from state to state in Australia; for example, the Higher School Certificate (HSC) is the final examination for students in Year 12 in New South Wales schools. There are government moves towards all states working on the same education system to alleviate this problem but parents would be well advised to check that, if their child enters for an Australian state final year of secondary school certificate, it is recognised by their future choice of higher-education institution.

A smooth transition

With such a big variation in the school year between northern-hemisphere education systems and the Australian education system, some pupils arriving from the USA and Europe will repeat a year, to ensure they fall in line with the correct year group.  Many schools believe that the ideal time for families to arrive in Australia is in time to commence school at the start of the academic year at the end of January. Schools also advise working closely with families to ensure a smooth transition and will take into consideration a number of factors, including what time of the year they will arrive, their academic ability, their emotional maturity, and what year group they will go back into when they leave Australia.