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Australian education system overview

The Australian Education System Overview and What This Means for You By Amy Marmin

The Australian education system encompasses four facets: primary, secondary, vocational and tertiary education. Each phase is governed by varying levels of government and administered in its various forms as either public or private.

Let’s examine more closely these phases and what this means for prospective students and parents alike.

The Australian Education System – Primary Education Overview

Primary education or primary schooling covers the grades from prep to grade 6 inclusively. While prior to the prep level there are kindergartens for those who are not yet old enough, attendance is not compulsory until prep.

In previous years primary education was considered until grade 7, however as 2015 Queensland came in line with the rest of the country (except South Australia) and transitioned grade 7 into secondary school (South Australia Department of Premier and Cabinet, 2016).

This transition was aimed at the recognition that young teens have different learning and social needs and as such in order to create the supportive environment needed for them to flourish in their later years of the study, this environment was introduced to them a year earlier than what had occurred for previous generations (Queensland Department of Education, 2015).

While primary education facilities are generally, as with every level of education, either public or private they receive the bulk of their funding from state governments, with some substituted funding coming from the federal government.

This funding varies depending on a school’s status as either public or private, with private schools charging a fee for students to attend, only a small portion of the population can afford private education.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2017) of the 3,849,225 students enrolled in schools (both primary and secondary) across the country, public schools have a 65.6% share of enrolments, which is a continued trend that has been observed since 2015. In the 20 years prior there was shift towards nongovernment schooling.

The Australian Education System – Secondary Education Overview

As previously mentioned secondary schooling starts in most Australian states from grade 7 and runs until grade 12. Schooling continues to be compulsory until at least 15 years old where they must either continue their education until grade 12, continue training or full-time employment.

The apparent retention rate from grade 7 to grade 12 nationally was approximately 84.8% this is up by 0.5% from 2016 (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2017).

At the culmination of year 12 a large examination is undertaken by those students who want entrance into university, the results of this exam and class determine, depending on your state, your OP or Rank, which is used for entry into university.

These scores also determine cut offs for certain degrees, that is why when applying for universities students are asked to choose several preferences as cut off scores for degrees can change year to year depending on course popularity and positions available (University of the Sunshine Coast, 2018).

The Australian Education System – Vocational Education Overview

Vocational education and training (VET) is part of tertiary education and training which provides accredited training in job related and technical skills (NSW Department of Industry, 2017). As such vocational education can be both an alternative and a pathway to university.

As previously discussed those students who do not wish to continue on to grade 12 have the option of vocational education to further their education and training through various TAFE (Technical and Further Education) and other training institutions to obtain qualifications.

Conversely, students can also use these VET qualifications to improve their university entry ranks and apply for their first preference that way. There are always other options to reach your educational goals, just remember not to get disheartened if at first you don’t get the result you desire.

The Australian Education System – Tertiary Education Overview

Tertiary education is the academic pursuit undertaken after high school or secondary school usually at universities. Like every previous level of education these institutions can either be public or private.

Public universities are administered under the guidelines of the federal government, Private universities are usually non-for profit organisations and some offer accelerated degrees, for example a six semester degree could be completed in 2 years.

There are only three private universities in Australia, they are Bond University (Queensland), the University of Notre Dame (Western Australia) and Torrens University (South Australia). Tertiary education and vocational education alike are encouraged by the federal government through fee help programs and Commonwealth sponsored loans to help all students to be able to afford to further their learning and skills.

These programs are undertaken with the understanding that once an individual’s annual income reaches a certain threshold they will indeed begin to payback these debts back (Australian Government, 2018). With a wide array options available, Australia’s education system has something for everyone, no matter your age or means.

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