Ep 3: Australian Schools

EPISODE 3 - Australian Schools

Hi this is Simone from Study in Australia TV.

In our last episode we talked about the Australian Education system, the Australian Qualifications Framework also known as the AQF, and why the AQF is so important for the quality of Australian Education.

In this Episode today, Episode 3, we’re going to concentrate on the Australian School system.

Australian schools are either Government funded and managed or Non-Government, which I’ll refer to as Private schools.

There are some important differences between Government and Private schools in Australia:
Government schools are operated by the State or Territory Government Education Department.

Private schools are not owned or operated by a State or Territory
Government but are privately funded and managed and in some cases may be a religiously based school.

The fee structure between Government and Private schools are quite different.

International students usually pay higher tuition fees than domestic Australian students even for Government schools as the Government subsidises most of the fees for domestic Australian students.

Marketing and enrolment of students is controlled by the government education department in that particular state or territory for Government schools.

Private schools recruit students directly, so students communicate
directly with Private schools in all matters regarding their enrolment.

Government schools cover a variety of social and cultural philosophies.

Private schools may have a particular religious or cultural philosophy, which is clearly reflected in the student experience.

Government and Private schools are required to follow the same curriculum in the key learning areas across all years of schooling.

The Australian school system, regardless if it’s a Government or Private school, focuses on meeting the individual learning needs of each student.

This helps each child to reach their full intellectual and educational potential.

Study programs are child-centred and focus on the development of learning skills and strategies, which trains students to be life long, self-motivated learners.

Australian schools have a number of important characteristics, for instance:
The teacher's primary role is to assist students in reaching their individual learning goals.
The class activities include students undertaking projects, group work and self-directed learning.
Most schools have a dress code or ensure a specific uniform is worn to promote a sense of equality and to maintain a focus on education instead of fashion.
Class sizes are kept as small as possible, below 30, so teachers can easily interact with students on an individual basis.
School hours usually operate from 9am to 3.30pm, Monday to Friday but these times can vary depending on the school.
All Australian teachers are university trained and accredited.
Secondary school teachers have specialist qualifications and experience in their subject area.

Many schools have special programs & services available for:
gifted students that may need extended academic work
students that need extra teacher support in specific learning areas
international students who need additional English language support
students with disabilities to help them reach their full potential
and a strong welfare structure to ensure the ongoing support of every student.

So let’s move onto the Structure of Australian Schools..

Schooling lasts for 13 years, children begin in pre-school or kindergarten at 4 years of age and then start at primary school at 5 years of age.
Pre-School or Kindergarten lasts for 1 year and the main focus is on socialising children and beginning the early learning blocks for Primary School education.

Students start the Preparatory Year or Reception at Primary School at 5 years of age.

The curriculum is linked to the primary school curriculum and focuses on the overall development of students as preparation for the main learning areas.

The remainder of Primary School lasts for 6 years from Year 1 to Year 6.

The key learning areas in Primary School are English, Mathematics, Studies of Society and the Environment, Science, Arts, Languages Other Than English (LOTE), Technology, Health and Physical Education.

Typically for Primary Schools across Australia:
There is no entrance exam for Government primary schools but schools are usually zoned by suburb which determines which school students will attend.
Government schools are usually co-educational or mixed gender but some Private schools are single-sex, for instance girls or boys only.
Students learn with others of a similar age, for instance in Year 1 most students are 6 years old.
Learning occurs either by group work or individual activities.
There is one teacher responsible for each class for all subjects except for some specialist subjects like Art or Physical Education.
There is no standardised public exam at the end of primary school.
Students receive a school completion certificate after completing
primary school.

The early part of a child’s education is very important as it’s in these formative years that attitudes and learning behaviour begins to form.

International students can commence in Primary School from 6 years of age but must be accompanied by a parent or guardian under their international student visa conditions.

Emphasis is not only on the educational side of primary schooling, but also on students developing communication and cooperation skills, which are important skills for their ongoing development.

After students complete Primary School they progress onto Secondary School, also known as High School.

Junior High School or Middle School is from Years 7 to 10.

The general focus of secondary education is much more independent and student guided than primary school.

Students have many subject options, in addition to the core subjects, which can reflect their interests and goals.

Choice and diversity is increased by schools which specialise in
areas such as languages, music, sport, information technology,
agriculture or vocational education.

Students take a number of compulsory core courses in English,
Mathematics, Science, Social Science, Health & Physical Education, Technologies, Arts and Languages.

The curriculum prepares students for civic, social and economic participation and personal health and well-being to equip students for senior secondary schooling or vocational pathways.
Public schools are usually co-educational or mixed gender but some Private schools are single-sex, for instance girls or boys only.
Students have different teachers for most subjects but usually have the same teacher for their Home group at the beginning of the day.

Students move from room to room according to their timetable,
and study in classrooms that are specially designed for subjects such as art, music and science.

To enter secondary school, international students must provide
their academic records and demonstrate appropriate English
proficiency, Academic and English requirements vary depending on the school.

After completing Middle School at Year 10, students progress onto Senior Secondary School for Years 11 and 12.

The Senior Secondary School Years 11 and 12 curriculum is designed for more advanced learning in preparation for either Vocational or University studies.
The State and Territories in Australia are responsible for determining how the Australian Curriculum content and achievement standards are to be integrated into their courses.
The State and Territory authorities also determine assessment and certification specifications for their courses.
The senior secondary Australian Curriculum for each subject specifies content and achievement standards.
The content describes the knowledge, understanding and skills that are to be taught and learned.
The achievement standards describe the quality of learning, for instance the depth of understanding, extent of knowledge and sophistication of skill and expectations of students who have studied the content for the subject.

The specific Year 12 structure is however determined by the State or Territory but generally students will study 5-6 subjects in Year 12 and assessment is based on a combination of school and exam-based marks.
Senior secondary subjects across English, Mathematics, Science, History and Geography make up the common base with a wider range of elective or free choice subjects available like Art, Business, Computing, Design, Drama, Languages and Psychology to name a few.
The elective subjects offered vary and depend on what’s available at any particular school.
Subject selection also depends on the student’s future career or educational goals.
Students in Year 12 can study for a government endorsed
Senior School certificate that is recognised for further study by all Australian universities and vocational education and training institutions.

This is generally referred to as a Senior Secondary Certificate of
Education, and is also recognised for entry into many international

Some schools also teach vocational subjects and issue credit towards Certificates I to IV, which are normally obtained through the Vocational Education and Training System, known as VET.

The Senior Certificate of Secondary Education is known by different names in different states, but all are considered to be equivalent.

For instance in New South Wales for Sydney based students it’s called the Higher School Certificate or HSC; in Victoria for Melbourne based students it’s called the Victorian Certificate of Education or VCE; in Brisbane it’s called the Queensland Certificate of Education or QCE; Adelaide it’s the South Australian Certificate of Education or SACE and Perth it’s the WA Certificate of Education or WACE.

Year 12 students studying the Senior Certificate of Secondary Education sit exams at the end of the year to receive an Australian Tertiary Admissions Ranking, also known as an ATAR.

This ATAR is assessed to qualify for entry into University programs.

Universities assess each student’s ATAR for entry into their Bachelor degree programs based on a previously published ATAR requirement.

Students are able to apply for a range of different Bachelor degrees and the Tertiary Admissions Centre in each state manage the offers on behalf of the Universities.

Some schools also offer Foundation programs to international students instead of a senior certificate. This normally provides entry to specific universities that accept that particular Foundation program.

As we discussed in our last Episode, Foundation programs are functionally the same as Australian Year 12 secondary school programs and provide for a similar level of academic work but students do not sit a public exam or receive an ATAR or Australian Tertiary Admissions Ranking.

There are predetermined admission requirements that are agreed to between the school and the University and students are assessed against this criteria for entry into the University programs.

Now we’re going to talk about entry points into Schools for International students..

Entry points for International students vary depending on the school and whether it’s a Government or Private school and which State the school is located in.

For Primary Schools:
Students may enter at Preparatory level or Year 1 if they’re 6 years of age or above.
A student can enter at any year if the application is accepted by the school, and they have complete transcripts from their previous school.
In some instances the student may be required to take a placement test or have an interview with the school if their academic progress is low or if they have a disability that needs further discussion.

For Secondary or High School:
Students may enter Years 7 to 11 depending on the school requirements.
In some cases students can also enter at Year 12 but this depends on the school, the student’s background and what the student will study.
New students need complete academic records and an appropriate English language proficiency which is dependent on the school entry criteria.
There is also a maximum age allowable for Secondary school years which is set by the Department of Home Affairs, also known as Immigration.

Now we’ll briefly cover the cost of schooling in Australia..

School level education in Australia is very cost effective, especially compared to other English speaking countries.

Costs vary from State to State and depend on whether students attend Government or Private schools.

These are some of the costs a student can expect to pay for during their studies:
Some schools charge an Application fee, this covers the cost of reviewing the student’s initial application. Not all schools charge this fee.
Tuition fees are based on a yearly basis and vary depending on the type of school and where it is located.
Overseas Student Health Cover also known as OSHC, covers the student’s health insurance and is dependent on the length of the student visa.
Accommodation costs also vary depending on the type of accommodation chosen. Most school students under 18 either stay in School Boarding facilities or in Homestay with an Australian family for guardian reasons.
Other costs include school uniforms, excursion expenses and learning materials.
The Australian Government recommends students should allow AU$20,290 as the minimum amount required to cover living costs for a 12-month period in Australia. This figure excludes tuition fees or the cost of travel to and from Australia.

So let’s talk about Accommodation options in Australia…

There are different types of Accommodation options for International students studying at the School level.

Some Private schools have Boarding House facilities which provide accommodation, meals and laundry services for international students.
Tuition fees are in addition to the boarding fees.

Homestay is popular with younger students and those studying short-term English courses.

Students can live with an Australian family, learn about the Australian lifestyle and practise English in a natural and friendly way.

Meals are usually included in the cost and single or shared rooms may be offered.

Self-catering homestay is sometimes available at a cheaper price.

Education providers must ensure that homestay families are reputable, and that they offer good accommodation.

Unaccompanied International Students under 18 years of age must live in either Homestay accommodation or a supervised Boarding House to comply with the guardian arrangements of their student visa.

Students over 18 are able to stay in alternative student accommodation facilities or rent a private apartment or house.

Now we’re going to talk about the advantages of studying in Australia..

Australia offers international students a high quality education in a safe and welcoming environment.

International students have been enrolled in Australian schools for over 50 years, so schools are accustomed to having a broad cultural mix amongst their student community.

According to the Australian Education International or AEI data there were over 275,000 international student enrolments in the school sector across Australia in 2019.

Australian school education offers the opportunity for students to develop life skills in a positive, inclusive, supportive and outgoing environment.

Importance is given to personal development as well as academic studies.

Schools in Australia take great care in looking after their international students, helping them to adjust to the Australian way of life and providing support and care where needed.

The multicultural nature of Australian society means international students are readily accepted by other students.

Teachers are experienced in teaching classes to students from many different countries and cultures.

Some schools and colleges cater exclusively for international students, others have long traditions of student exchange with other international schools, but schools have a mix of international and domestic Australian students.

All subjects are taught in English, but in many cases students are able to maintain and develop their own language skills as well as become proficient in the English language.

There are a number of important reasons that attract international students to Australia:
Quality of the Education
English as a Second Language support
Information and Communication Technology in Schools

Let’s talk about Quality of Education:

State and Territory Governments have agreed on a National Curriculum Framework for all Australian schools that outlines national standards in key learning areas.

This framework ensures that all students in Australian schools achieve the best possible outcomes.

The National Curriculum Framework is based on ten common and agreed national goals for schooling.

The goals identify the skills, understanding, knowledge, attitudes and values which should be developed in young people.

The National Curriculum focuses on eight key learning areas:
Studies of Society and the Environment,
Health and Physical Education,
Languages other than English,
And the Arts.

English as a Second Language support programs, also known as ESL, are very important for international students.

ESL programs in both primary and secondary schools are available for students whose first language is not English.

The types of students that study ESL range from those students newly arrived in Australia and beginning to learn English to Australian born students from a non-English speaking background that may need additional assistance.

In general, ESL support will:
prepare students for entry into school studies delivered in English,
also provide on-going language support for students after they begin their formal studies,

It’s important to note that having a reasonable level of English is very important for academic success and will make it easier to make new friends and adjust to the Australian lifestyle.

Safety is a very important consideration for parents of school age students.
Australia is well known as a safe destination to travel and live in.

Australian schools offer a range of student support services to help students settle into their new life in Australia.

Australian cities have some of the lowest crime rates in the world, and our streets and public spaces are open and safe.

International students under the age of 18 must be cared for by a guardian or be accompanied while studying in Australia.

Schools have various mechanisms to monitor and care for their international students.

So now we’re going to discuss how technological Australian schools are.

Australian schools aim to produce graduates who are comfortable using information and communication technology, also known as ICT, effectively in all aspects of their lives.

This means that all students leave school as confident, creative
and productive users of new technologies and understand the impact of those technologies on society and their future studies.

Australian schools are becoming world leaders in the application of technology for education, and are well-equipped with the following learning technologies:
Digital data and communication links,
Film and television,
Satellite signals for remote locations,
Internet access,
and Smart learning technologies.

So that’s the end of Study in Australia TV Episode 3 on Schools.

I hope you learnt a lot about the Australian School system and understand more about the consistency of teaching across Australian Primary and Secondary schools.

Please let us know if you have any questions on this, or even if you have any feedback or simply just like the content.

Always happy to hear from you!

Bye for now!

Find a Course