Education in Australia
is primarily the responsibility of the states and territories
. Each state or territory government provides funding and regulates the public and private schools within its governing area. The federal government
helps fund the public universities, but is not involved in setting curriculum.
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 and/or TAFE
The Programme for International Student Assessment
(PISA) 2006 evaluation ranked the Australian education system as 6th for reading, 8th for science and 13th for mathematics, on a worldwide scale including 56 countries.
The Education Index
, published with the UN
'sHuman Development Index
in 2008, based on data from 2006, lists Australia as 0.993, amongst the highest in the world, tied for first with Denmark
Education in Australia is compulsory between the ages of five and fifteen to seventeen, depending on the state or territory, and date of birth.
Post-compulsory education is regulated within the Australian Qualifications Framework
, a unified system of national qualifications in schools, vocational education and training (TAFE) and the higher education sector (university
The academic year in Australia varies between states and institutions, but generally runs from late January/early February until mid-December for primary and secondary schools, with slight variations in the inter-term holidays
and TAFE colleges,
and from late February until mid-November for universities with seasonal holidays and breaks for each educational institute.
Pre-school (also known as kindergarten in some states and territories
) in Australia
is relatively unregulated, and is not compulsory.
The first exposure many Australian children have to learn with others outside of traditional parenting is day care
or a parent-run playgroup
This sort of activity is not generally considered schooling, as pre-school education is separate from primary school in all states and territories, except Western Australia where pre-school education is taught as part of the primary school system.
Pre-schools are usually run by the state and territory governments, except in Victoria
, South Australia
and New South Wales
where they are more often run by local councils, community groups or private organisations.
Pre-school is offered to three- to five-year-olds; attendance numbers vary widely between the states, but 85.7% of children attended pre-school the year before school.
The year before a child is due to attend primary school is the main year for pre-school education. This year is far more commonly attended, and may take the form of a few hours of activity during weekdays.
Responsibility for pre-schools in New South Wales
, lies with the Department of Community Services
and the Department of Human Services
In all other states and territories of Australia, responsibility for pre-schools lies with the relevant education department.
School education in Australia is compulsory between certain ages as specified by state or territory legislation. Depending on the state or territory, and date of birth of the child, school is compulsory from the age of five to six to the age of fifteen to seventeen.
In recent years, over three quarters of students stay at school until they are seventeen. Government schools educate approximately 65% of Australian students, with approximately 34% in Catholic and independent schools.
A small portion of students are legally home-schooled, particularly in rural areas.
Government schools (also known as public schools) are free to attend for Australian citizens and permanent residents, while Catholic and independent schools usually charge attendance fees.
However in addition to attendance fees; stationary, textbooks, uniforms, school camps and other schooling costs are not covered under government funding. The additional cost for schooling has been estimated to be on average $316 per year per child.
Regardless of whether a school is part of the Government, Catholic or independent systems, they are required to adhere to the same curriculum frameworks of their state or territory. The curriculum framework however provides for some flexibility in the syllabus, so that subjects such as religious education
can be taught. Most school students wear uniforms,
although there are varying expectations and some Australian schools do not require uniforms. A common movement among secondary schools to support student voice
has taken form as organisations such as VicSRC
bring together student leaders to promote school improvement.
Catholic and independent schools
See also: Public and private education in Australia, Catholic education in Australia, and Anglican education in Australia
In 2010 66% of students in Australia attended government schools, 20% attended Catholic schools and 14% attended independent schools. In 2000 these figures were 69%, 20% and 11% respectively. 
Most Catholic schools are either run by their local parish, local diocese and their state's Catholic education department.
independent schools include schools operated by secular educational philosophies such as Montessori
, however, the majority of independent schools are religious, being Protestant
Some Catholic and independent schools charge high fees, because of this Government funding for these schools often comes under criticism from the Australian Education Union
and the Greens
. Common ages
Students may be slightly younger or older than stated below, due to variation between states and territories. The name for the first year of primary school varies considerably between states and territories, e.g. what is known as kindergarten in ACT and NSW may mean the year preceding the first year of primary school or preschool
in other states and territories.
Some states vary in whether Year 7 is part of the primary or secondary years,
as well as the existence of a middle school system.
Beginning in 2008, the Northern Territory introduced middle schools for Years 7–9 and high school for Years 10–12.
Pre-school / kindergarten / prep (ACT, NT, NSW, QLD and SA/ TAS, VIC and WA): 4–5 year olds
Under the National Curriculum
this year-level has be renamed: kindergarten
Kindergarten / preparatory / pre-primary / reception
/ transition (ACT and NSW / TAS, VIC and QLD / WA / SA / NT): 5–6 year olds
Under the National Curriculum
this year-level will be renamed: Foundation Year
- Grade/Year 1: 5–7 year olds
- Grade/Year 2: 7–8 year olds
- Grade/Year 3: 8–9 year olds
- Grade/Year 4: 9–10 year olds
- Grade/Year 5: 10–11 year olds
- Grade/Year 6: 11–12 year olds
- Grade/Year 7: 12–13 year olds (SA, WA)
- Year 7: 12–13 year olds (ACT, NSW, TAS, VIC, QLD) (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, TAS)
- Year 12: 17–19 year olds
Comparison of ages and year levels across states and territories
Students can undertake senior school studies for up to three years. Students who complete year 12 under a reduced workload generally do this in two years, the latter being referred to as "year 13".
Under the National Curriculum
being developed, the first year of schooling will be known as "foundation".
In the Northern Territory, primary schools often include a pre-school. In Western Australia, primary schools often include two pre-school years. [Citation needed
From 2013, South Australia will have one reception intake at the beginning of term 1.
In some states and territories, children that have been formally assessed and identified as gifted may begin school earlier than the stated minimum age. Additionally, gifted students may "skip" a subject or advance to a higher academic year level in schooling.
Main article: Tertiary education in Australia
Tertiary education (or higher education) in Australia is primarily study at university
or a technical college
in order to receive a qualification or further skills and training.
Education in Australia has been the responsibility of the following departments:
Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations