Australia Education Profile -An Overview

Geographical Location: Australia is the sixth-largest country with the world’s 12th largest economy, comprising the mainland of the Australian Continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands. Canberra is the capital city of Australia. Australia has become one of the world’s oldest and most successful democracies blessed with natural wonders and cultural mix.

Prominent features of Education system historically to present:
Education in Australia is decentralised and is primarily the responsibility of the states and the territory government as they are the ones who provide funds and regulates the public and private schools. Education in Australia follows a three-tier model which includes: Primary education i.e. primary schools, Secondary education i.e. high schools and tertiary education i.e. Universities, TAFE (Technical and further education) colleges and VET (Vocation Education and Training) providers. The academic year varies but generally run from late January/early February until mid-December for Primary and Secondary schools and TAFE Colleges. For Universities, the academic session runs from late February until mid-November.

Education Position:
Australia’s Higher education system ranks eighth in the world with a high output in graduates and research.

Compulsory Education: School is compulsory for all children aged between five and fifteen years. These ages may vary slightly in some states. In 2011 there were 9,435 schools in Australia, including primary, secondary, combined and special schools. 71% of these were government schools (6,705), 18% were Catholic schools (1.710) and 11% were Independent schools (1,020).

Number and proportion of schools by sector and school category, Australia, 2011

School sector

 School categoryGover-
nment No.
ment %
Catholic No.  Catholic %
dent No.
dent %
 Total No.
 Total %
 Primary 4,847 51.4 1,231 13.0 234 2.5 6,312 66.9
 Secondary 1,02310.8 305 3.2 68 0.7 1,396 14.8
 Combined 504
 5.3 148 1.6
 653 6.9 1,305 13.8
 331 3.5 26 0.3 65 0.7 422 4.5
 Total 6,705 71.1
 1,710 18.1 1,020 10.8 9,435 100.0
Source:National Report on Schooling in Australia 2011,

There are 43 universities in Australia (40 Australian universities, two international universities, and one private specialty university).

Education System

The Australian education system provides primary, secondary and tertiary education. School education is similar across all of Australia with only minor variations between states and territories. School education (primary and secondary) is compulsory between the ages of six and sixteen (Year 1 to Year 9 or 10).
  • Primary School Education  - Runs for seven or eight years, starting at Kindergarten/Preparatory through to Year 6 or 7.
  • Secondary School - Runs for three or four years, from Years 7 to 10 or 8 to 10.
  • Senior Secondary School - Runs for two years, Years 11 and 12.
  • Tertiary Education: Tertiary education includes both higher education (including universities) and vocational education and training (VET).

Language of Instruction
English is the official language of Australia and the main language of instruction in the education system. Some schools offer bilingual programs or programs in other languages. Indigenous languages may also be used in some regions.

Standardized Tests or Entrance Exam

Standardized tests play a vital role in student’s achievement and public education policy.
 ACT Scaling test (AST): It is the aptitude test for Year 12 students to rank students and colleges for the calculation of an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank. AST is set by ACT Secondary Board of Senior Secondary Studies (BSSS) and created by the Australian Council for Education Research (ACER)

Queensland Core Skills Test (QCS)
: is a state wide test completed by all Queensland year 12 students and for tertiary rank students. These ranks are used to gain entry into tertiary degrees and courses.

The Overall Position (OP): is a tertiary entrance rank used in the Australian state of Queensland for selection into universities.

National Assessment Program- Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN): It assesses students' reading, writing, language (spelling, grammar and punctuation) and numeracy and is administered by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA).

Special tertiary Admission Test (STAT): STAT is a series of tests designed to assess a range of competencies considered important for success in tertiary study. It assesses the ability to think critically and analyze the material given, rather than testing your knowledge of specific academic subjects.

IELTS/ TOEFL: IELTS was introduced in Australia in 1989. It has become popular in Australia as it was specifically designed to measure English language ability of overseas students wishing to take further education in the country.

International Students

Australia is the third most popular international student destination in the world. There were 504,544 enrolments by gull-fee paying international students in Australia on a student visa as at year-to-date (YTD) October 2013. The Higher Education sector was the largest by volume of enrolments and by volume of commencements at YTD October 2013. Enrolments increased slightly by 0.4% on YTD October 2012 figures and commencements increased by 8.2% in the same period. The VET sector accounted for 25.5% of total enrolments and 27.7% of total commencements. The Schools sector accounted for 3.5% of total enrolments and 3.1% of total commencements. The ELICOS (English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students) sector accounted for 20.2% of total enrolments and 28.0% of total commencements. The Non-award sector (including study exchange and foundation programs) had enrolments and commencements growth of 11.2% and 11.4% respectively.

Australian Education System at a Glance:

Australian Education System
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