Education in Australia

Education in Australia

Australia’s education system is widely regarded as being one of the best in the world. In 2015, Australia’s education system was ranked the best in the world by a new report into global prosperity carried out by the Legatum Prosperity Rankings. The education ranking was determined through analysing data around class size, girls to boys enrolment ratio, secondary and tertiary enrolment, perceptions that children learn and satisfaction with educational quality.

Yet in spite of the high regard with which the Australia education system is held, the way the system is run is changing. Whereas traditionally Education in Australia has primarily been the responsibility of the individual state and territory governments, since 2103 an Australian National Curriculum has begun to be phased in. This curriculum is already in use in many public schools and expected to become mandatory in the not too distant future.

The age at which a child starts school currently depends on the state in which you live. No matter where you settle, though, education is generally compulsory for children aged older than five or six and younger than 16 or 17.


Prior to starting primary school, it is possible for you to send your children to a pre-school. This is not compulsory, however, and such schools tend to be fairly unregulated with an emphasis placed on fun. Again pre-school requirements will differ depending on the state or territory in which you live. It is also worth noting that while, in some states, kindergarten will refer to a pre-school, in others this is what the first year of primary school is also known as.

Primary school

Primary school (school years One to Six) in Australia tends to be for children aged between five and 12. However, in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia, primary school actually covers school years One to Seven, meaning that children in those states may be 13 before they move up to secondary school.

Secondary school

Secondary School, then, lasts from Years 7 (or 8 in the three aforementioned states) to 12; or put another way, for children between the ages of 12/13 to 18/19 (again depending on the state). What’s more, the Northern Territory splits its secondary schools into two, with Years 7, 8 and 9 known as ‘Middle School’ and Years 10, 11 and 12 known as High School.

However, no state requires a child to stay in school until the end of Year 12. Most states allow children to leave school at the age of either 16 or 17, while some (including Queensland) enable them to leave at 15, although this is only the case  if the child is either going straight into full-time employment, obtaining an apprenticeship or completing a tertiary education course at an approved institution. In order to gain the full ‘Senior Secondary Certificate of Education’ (SSCE) – Australia’s major school leaving qualifications – your child will need to complete Year 12 – these certificates are worked for between Years 10 and 12. SSCE qualifications are again slightly different depending on the state you live in – for example, in New South Wales they are known as Higher School Certificates (HSC) while in Queensland they are called the Queensland Certificate of Education. Criteria for these qualifications will again vary by state, but generally the pupil will need to complete a certain number of units in a range of different subjects. Many of these subjects can be chosen depending on your child’s interests, but it is likely that in order to obtain the units required to graduate they will also need to meet some set requirements. For example, in New South Wales English is a compulsory subject area and you will need at least two units in this subject (ten units is the minimum required to graduate).

There are a wide range of school choices for those moving to Australia – including public, private and faith-based schools. Almost two-thirds of the Australian population send their children to public schools, but it should be noted that which public school you can send your children to is heavily governed by a zonal system, so if you want to send your kids to a school that has a good reputation you will need to live near that particular institution. This is something that you will need to take into consideration when deciding on where to settle. If you are looking at sending your offspring to private or faith-based schools then you will not be governed by these zonal requirements as you will be paying to send your children there – faith-based schools are more affordable then private schools.

Should your child wish to pursue Higher Education (known as ‘tertiary education’) in Oz, then there are a number of options on how they can do this – most of which will require your child to have obtained a SSCE. Australian universities have an extremely good worldwide reputation and attract students from all over the world. There are a total of 41 universities in Australia and four of these are ranked in the top 100 universities in the world list, produced annually by the renowned Times Higher Education Supplement. Another option is to pursue vocational education training (VET) at one of the country’s Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institutions, which are also known as colleges. In some instances, those who leave school before Year 12 can attend certain TAFE institutions to pursue vocational training.

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