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Education and Schools

Australia - Education and Schools

The responsibility for providing education services is divided between both the regional and the national governments. There are five main sections to the education system. Children can attend preschool, primary school, secondary education in the form of high schools, vocational college or university. The approach to education is slightly different in Australia as there is an emphasis on encouraging children to become interested in the subjects that they are learning and there is less of a focus on memorizing large amounts of information. There are few schools that do not have a parent-teacher association and parents are encouraged to get involved as much as possible.

There are 13 years of compulsory education in Australia. Most children will have a year of pre-school before beginning in primary school at the age of 6. The division of education will vary from state to state but there are 6 or 7 years of primary education and then 5 or 6 years of compulsory secondary education. For example, in the Capital Territory and New South Wales, there are 6 years of primary education but in Queensland and South Australia there are 7. These are not great differences and the curriculum is very similar so children do not miss out.

Most classes are taught through the medium of English, although some schools for native Australians will make use of indigenous languages. Foreign languages are widely taught and many children now learn them from an early age.

The academic year runs from February to December. The majority of states operate with four school terms each year but Tasmania has three terms. Those who are studying at a college for technical education may find that their academic year begins during January, while universities will begin in February and end in November.

Secondary education will consist of a number of elements. Usually the first 12 or 24 months are a general programme of courses that are followed by all students. By year 9 the child is focussing more on a ‘core group’ of subjects along with chosen optional subjects. The core subjects consist of maths, English, sciences, modern foreign languages, some technical subjects and physical education. The exact combination of core subjects is decided in each individual state and each will award a certificate that will allow the child to go on to further study if passed.

In the Capital Territory the ACT certificate is awarded if the child has successfully completed years 9 and 10. Assessments are school based and will cover issues such as behaviour and attendance. Those who do not receive the certificate will get the High School Record. With the certificate the student can go on to the next stage of secondary education. A similar system exists in New South Wales although assessment involves students taking external tests in a range of subjects including Australian history and citizenship in order to be awarded the School Certificate. A record of achievement is also issued. In the Northern Territory there is no longer a formal certificate issued at the end of year 10. In Queensland there are no formal qualifications issued at the end of year 10 and the same applies to South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria. In Western Australia there is no award currently given upon completion of year 10 but a certificate was issued until 1993.

There are some schools which do not follow the state curriculums. Some offer what is known as the Middle Years Programme which is the International Baccalaureate. At the present time there are 48 schools which have permission to run this programme. Students study a range of arts and sciences and the assessment for these programmes are school-based.

The senior years of secondary schools cover years 11 and 12 in all states. There are different programmes which are designed with future plans in mind, whether the student wants to undertake further study or go on to work straight from school. Each state has its own certification for this level. In the Capital Territory the students are awarded the ACT Year 12 certificate if they complete a minimum number of courses. In New South Wales the certificate is the Higher School Certificate and in the Northern Territory it is known as the NTCE. In Queensland the qualification is the Queensland Certificate of Education. In South Australia it is the South Australian Certificate of Education and in Tasmania it is the Tasmanian Certificate of Education. In Victoria students study for one of two certificates – the Victorian Certificate of Education or the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning. In Western Australia the qualification is the Western Australian Certificate of Education.

Parents have a choice of both public and private schools. Public schools are established by the state government and private schools are independent. When children attend public schools there is very little to pay out, although you may be charged a small fee to cover the cost of arranging extra-curricular activities and keeping the library stocked. Most schools require the children to wear uniform and the parents will carry that cost.

All schools offer a wide range of extra-curricular activities including sports, drama and creative arts. Children are encouraged to participate as much as possible and most schools take part in local leagues with other schools in the area for different sports.

In order to enrol at a school in Australia you need to apply to the school itself. You will need to have school reports from your child’s old school as well as his/her birth certificate, passport and visa details to prove that you have the right to live in the country and information on vaccinations that have been given to the child. For most expats moving to Australia, education at a state school is free.

If you choose a private school then you will find that there are two definite types. One type is overseen by the Catholic Education Office and others are overseen by private organisations or other religious groups. These are fee paying schools and they are able to set their own fees. Private school is the only option if you want an all-girl or all-boy school. For a list of contacts for schools run by both the government and non-government organisations you can take a look at the http://www.immi.gov.au/settle/education/system.htm#Public.

You may prefer that your child is home schooled. This is an option for those who are able to provide it but if not you prefer a school you are able to use an educational consultant in order to help you to find the right school for your child. They can often help with an application to a school and you have a better chance of finding a place at the school of your choice with their help.

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