School Education Manual Australia

Australian Schools


This section outlines Australia’s schooling system. Most students enter at a high school level, but some of them may need to attend a primary school.

It’s useful to be aware of what your students can expect when studying in an Australian school regarding:

  • • •

Focus 1. 2. 3. 4.

the subjects they can study that may be relevant to their studies after high school;
the qualifications they receive and how they can enter university or further education; the costs that they will need to plan for.

What are some differences between government and non-government schools?
How do a student’s learning experiences at primary school differ from those at high school? What are some common types of accommodation available for international students? Why do international students choose to study in an Australian school?

Introduction to Australian Schools

Australian schools are either government or non-government (private), and they aim to focus on the individual learning needs of their students.

Government and Non-government Schools
There are some important differences between these 2 types of schools:

Government Schools

Non-Government Schools

– they are operated by a State or Territory government.

– they are not owned or operated by a State or Territory government.

– Australian students normally do not pay substantial tuition fees to attend these schools. – international students and the children of international students are required to pay fees.

– international students usually pay higher tuition fees than domestic students.


– the marketing and enrolment of students is controlled by the government education department in the particular state or territory.
– when agents recruit students for these schools, they communicate with a department representative and not the individual school.

– they recruit students directly, so agents communicate with non-government schools in all matters regarding recruitment and enrolment.

– they address a variety of social and cultural philosophies.

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

Individual Learning Needs

The school system aims to meet the learning needs of each individual student. This helps each child 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 usually have a number of characteristics:

The teacher’s role

The teacher aims to assist students in reaching their individual learning goals.

Class activities

Students commonly undertake projects, group work and self-directed learning.

Dress codes

Most schools enforce dress codes or have a uniform to promote a sense of equality and to maintain a focus on education instead of fashion.

Class sizes

These are kept as small as possible, so teachers can regularly interact with students on an individual basis.

School hours

Schools operate from 9am to 3pm, Monday to Friday. Before-school and after- school care is generally available to those students who require it.

Teacher training

Australian teachers are nearly all university trained, with secondary school teachers having specialist qualifications in their subject area.

Special programs & services

These are available for:
– gifted students
– students with disabilities
to help them reach their fullest potential.

English support

International students often have access to English language support to help them adapt to their new school environment.

Structure of Australian Schooling

In this section you’ll learn about the structure of Australian schools in more detail. It is compulsory for all Australian students to attend school until Year 10 or age 16.




Duration = 1 year. Student ages = 3 to 4 years.
(Offered 2 years before Year 1)

– This level would only be relevant to agents who need to consider the young children of international students in Australia.

– It is not compulsory.
– It is provided by public and non-government schools.

Preparatory Year

– This level would only be relevant to agents who need to consider the young children of international students in Australia.


Duration = 1 year. Student ages = 4 to 6 years.
Offered = the year before Year 1.

– It is not compulsory in some states.
– It is sometimes known by other names in different States and Territories such as ‘Kindergarten, ‘Transition, ‘Reception, or ‘Primary.
– Its curriculum is linked to the primary school curriculum.
– It focuses on the overall development of the students.

Primary School

Duration = 6 or 7 years.
Student ages = 5 to 12 years.

– This level would be relevant to agents who need to consider the young children of international students in Australia. Also, some unaccompanied primary age children study in Australia on student visas.

– This level is compulsory for all students.
– There is no entrance examination for public primary schools.
– Co-educational and single-sex schools exist.
– Students learn with others of a similar age.
– Learning occurs by group and individual activities.
– There is one teacher in each class for all subjects except for some specialist subjects (e.g. Art).
– There is no standardised exam at the end of primary school.
– Students do not receive a formal certificate after completing primary school.

– The early part of children’s education is very important since it is in these formative years that attitudes and behaviour begins to take shape. Emphasis is put not only on the educational side of primary schooling, but also on students developing communication and cooperation skills, which will serve them well in later life.

Secondary School Duration = 5 or 6 years.

Student ages = 12 to 18 years.

– To enter secondary school, international students must provide their academic records and demonstrate appropriate English proficiency.

– The general tone of secondary education is much more independent and student guided than primary school. Students have many course options which reflect their interests and goals. Some schools emphasise certain subjects more than others. Choice and diversity is increased by schools which specialise in areas such as languages, music, sport, information technology, agriculture or vocational education.

– Co-educational & single-sex schools are available.
– Students have different teachers for most subjects.
– Students move from room to room according to their timetable, and they study in classrooms that are specially designed for subjects such as art, music and science.

Junior High School – usually Years 7-10

– Students take a number of compulsory courses in English, Mathematics, Science, and Social Science.
– After completing junior high school, a student may choose to continue into senior high school programs, begin a vocational program, or enter the workforce. However, most students choose to continue to Year 11.


– In some States, a student leaving Year 10 may be awarded a formal certification of completion of that year.

Senior High School – usually Years 11-12

– Students in Years 11 and 12 have a wider range of choices in selecting elective courses such as Computing, Art, and Drama.- Students study subjects that they excel in or that relate to their future career or educational goals.
– Students in Year 12 can study for a government-endorsed certificate that is recognised for further study by all Australian universities and vocational education and training institutions. This is generally known as a Senior Secondary Certificate of Education, and it is recognised for entry into many international universities.

Secondary School Qualifications

Two qualifications are available from secondary schools:

  1. A Certificate of Completion of Year 10

This is usually an informal certificate, but some states offer formal qualifications at this level.

Students with a certificate of completion for Year 10 may start to work or begin a vocational education program. They will not generally be accepted into a university program, but may seek mature age entry to some universities later.

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

  1. A Senior Certificate of Secondary Education This is a formal certificate known by different names as follows:



Australian Capital Territory (ACT)

ACT Year 12 Certificate

New South Wales (NSW)

Higher School Certificate (HSC)

Northern Territory (NT)

Northern Territory Certificate of Education (NTCE)

Queensland (QLD)

Senior Certificate

South Australia (SA)

South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE)

Tasmania (TAS)

Tasmanian Certificate of Education (TCE)

Victoria (VIC)

Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE)


Western Australia (WA)

WA Certificate of Education (WACE)

Students with a Senior Certificate of Secondary Education have more choices, and they may decide to:

  • start work,
  • begin a VET program,
  • progress directly to university studies.
    Some schools offer foundation programs to international students instead of a senior certificate. This

normally provides entry to specific universities.

Student Ranking

Students who seek admission to higher education and universities are provided with a tertiary entrance score or rank. A student’s rank:

  • is calculated in each State & Territory with its own name and system. For example, in Queensland it is called the Overall Position (OP) Score.
  • is based on the grades achieved through school assessment and the final exam marks.
  • is used by the higher education authorities to determine if the student meets the admission requirements for its courses.

Entry points, Typical Costs, and Accommodation Options

Entry Points for International Students

Entry points might be different depending on the school (government/non-government and/or the State it operates in), but commonly they are as follows:

Primary Schools

  • Students may enter at Preparatory level or Year 1.
  • A student can enter at any year if the application is accepted by the school, and they have complete transcripts from their former school. In some instances they may be required to take a placement test to ensure their success at their new school.

Secondary Schools

  • Students may enter Years 6 or 8 or at Years 10 or 11. The entry to these years reflects the beginning of the teaching/learning cycle, e.g. beginning of junior/senior high school)
  • A student may enter at any year if the application is accepted by the school, and with appropriate transcripts. New students need complete academic records and an appropriate English language proficiency.

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 public or non- government schools. However, the following costs show what overseas students can expect:



Application fees

These cover the costs of reviewing the student’s application, even though the student may not be accepted by the school.



This depends on the school selected.

$6,000 – 15,000 per year


Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)

This covers normal childhood accidents and illnesses.

$420 per year


This cost varies considerably.

$70 – 400 per week

Other incidentals

For example, school uniforms, living expenses and learning materials.


Accommodation for Overseas Students

There are several accommodation options for international students such as:

Boarding school

  • Many non-government secondary schools provide accommodation, meals and laundry services for international students.

Tuition fees are in addition to the boarding fees.


  • This is popular with younger students and those studying short-term English courses.
  • Students can live with an Australian family, gain access to 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.


  • This offers the same or similar services as a homestay, but in a rural setting. It can be suitable for short stays.

Share or Rental Accommodation

  • Students over 18 may share or rent an apartment or house.

Approximate costs for each type of accommodation are shown here (data from Study in Australia website):





Boarding School

A$10,000 – 20,000 per year

Homestay / Farmstay

A$110 – 270 per week

Share Accommodation

A$70 – 250 per week

Rental Accommodation

A$100 – 400 per week

Advantages to International students

Australia offers international students a high quality education in a safe and welcoming environment. International students have been enrolled in Australian schools since the 1950s. According to an AEI research snapshot, in 2016 there were 20,495 international student enrolments in the schools sector, increasing to 25,752 by November 2017.

Australian school education offers the opportunity for students to develop life skills in a positive 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. 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, whereas others have long traditions of student exchange with other international schools. 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 three important reasons that attract international students to Australia:

  1. Quality
  2. English as a Second Language (ESL) Programs
  3. Information and Communication Technology in Schools


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 Australians. They focus on eight learning areas:

  • English,
  • Mathematics,
  • Science,
  • Technology,
  • Studies of Society and the Environment,
  • Health and Physical Education,
  • Languages other than English,
  • Arts.
    Comparisons with other countries

The OECD Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2009 showed that Australian students were above OECD averages in reading, mathematical and scientific literacy. Some of its findings are listed here:

  • Australia performed better that the USA or UK in all areas.
  • Australia was among the top ten countries in all three areas.
  • The top 5% of Australian students achieved at the same level in all domains as the top 5% of students in any country.

English as a Second Language (ESL) Programs

ESL programs in both primary and high schools are available for students whose first language is not English. The types of ESL students range from those newly arrived in Australia and beginning to learn English to Australian born students from a non-English speaking background.

In general, ESL support can:

  • prepare students for entry into school studies in intensive English courses,
  • provide on-going language-support programs for students after they begin their formal studies

Parents of international students have access to translation and interpreter services in the public school system.

Information and Communication Technology in Schools

Australian schools aim to produce graduates who are able to use information and communication technology (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.

Australian schools are becoming world leaders in the application of technology to education, and they are well-equipped with the following:

  • Computers,
  • Digital data and communication links,
  • Film and television,
  • Satellite signals to remote locations,
  • Internet access points,
  • online courses and materials.

Useful Information

Government sites

  • Australia – Country Information (DFAT)
  • Australian Demographic Statistics, March 2011 (ABS)
  • Public Holidays

Tourism sites

  • Australian Capital Tourism Corporation
  • Tourism New South Wales
  • Northern Territory Tourism Commission
  • Tourism Queensland
  • South Australian Tourism Commission
  • Tourism Tasmania
  • Tourism Victoria
  • Western Australian Tourism Commission

Weather Information

  • Rainfall and Temperature graphs (BOM)
  • you also can find weather information about cities around the world from World Climate.

Standard Times

Australia has both Standard Times and Daylight Saving Times (note that GMT stands for Greenwich Mean Time).






Eastern Standard Time (EST)

New South Wales Australian Capital Territory Victoria

+ 10


Central Standard Time (CST)

South Australia Northern Territory

+ 9.5


Western Standard Time (WST)

Western Australia




Daylight Saving Times





Eastern Daylight/Summer Time (EDT)

New South Wales Australian Capital Territory Victoria

+ 11


Central Daylight/Summer Time (CDT)

South Australia

+ 10.5


Western Daylight/Summer Time (WDT)

Western Australia

+ 9.0


No Daylight Saving Times – use Standard Times

Queensland Northern Territory

+ 10 + 9.5

7:00pm 6:30pm

Refer to the Bureau of Meteorology for the start and finish dates of daylight saving times.