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Education in Australia

Need an education about the Australian education system? Find out more about schools in Australia.Schools in Australia

Main points:

  • Children between the ages of 6 and 15 (16 in Tasmania) must attend school in Australia.
  • Pre-school/Day Care centres ease kids into life away from home and their parents.
  • Kindergarten is the year before heading to Primary school where formal education begins.
  • Kids enter Primary school by age six, and stay for six or seven years.
  • After Primary school, students move on to Secondary school where they can leave at 15 or 16. Or they can go on to complete their final year Certificate.
  • Some schools have a Middle school, which bridges Primary and Secondary school.
  • Australia offers both Public (non-fee paying) and Private (fee paying) schools.
  • University, TAFE (Technical and Further Education) and independent colleges offer further study to help students enter their career of choice.

Migrating and need to know more about the Australian education system?

Are you making the move to Australia with kids? Then you must be wondering about the Australian education system. Or maybe you would like to study yourself? Either way, the Australian education system offers public and private school options, plus a host of Universities and Colleges for further education.

The stages of Australian education

Children between the ages of 6 and 15 (16 in Tasmania) must attend school in Australia. Most complete all 12 years of schooling and many go on to further study at University or College.

Pre-school/Day Care

Pre-school, or Day Care, centres allow children to get used to being away from their parents while playing with other children. Parents often enrol their child in Pre-school or Day Care when returning to work. Pre-schools are generally open from 9am to 2:30pm. While not a formal learning environment, Pre-school helps children to learn through play. Some Pre-schools are government run and funded, while privately run centres charge around $50 a day. After Pre-school, children generally move on to Kindergarten.


Kindergarten is the first stage of schooling in Australia. Children typically attend Kindergarten in the year before Primary school, at around the age of four to five.

Primary School

Kids attend Primary school for six or seven years. With compulsory entry usually by age six, students start out in 'Grade Prep'. They then move on to 'Grade One', 'Grade Two' and so on until 'Grade Six'. In some states and territories, the first year of Primary school is called 'Year 1' and the last, 'Year 7'. Primary school includes teaching students basic language, arithmetic, health and social education. After graduating, students move on to Middle or Secondary school.

Middle School

Some schools have a Middle School, which bridges the Primary to Secondary school years. Students from Grade Five or Six through to around Year 10 move through the Middle school. They then enter their final years at Secondary school.

Secondary School

Secondary school is also known as 'High school'. Most Secondary schools offer a general curriculum, including English, maths, science and humanities subjects. Australia also has some agricultural, language and technical schools that offer vocationally focused curriculum. Some high schools have a separate senior school campus for students completing their final two years.

Students must attend every weekday until they graduate their final year, at around 18 years of age. Or students can opt to leave at the school leaving age for their State or Territory (see below). Students can receive their School Certificate at the end of Year 10. This certificate is usually required to gain employment or an apprenticeship. To enrol in a TAFE course (see below) also usually requires a Year 10 School Certificate. To attend University, students must complete their final year and examinations. They then receive a certificate and a mark, which universities use to wholly or partly determine whether they will accept the student into one of their courses.


At University, students study for an Undergraduate or Bachelor degree to help them enter their career of choice. This is their first degree and is referred to as 'Higher Education'. Students can then undertake 'Further Education', which can include an extra year of study called an 'Honours' year, as well as a Masters degree and Doctorates. Most Australian Universities offer on-campus and distance education learning to students. Courses available include Medicine, Information Technology, Business, Media and Arts.

Students must pay fees to attend University. Fees vary according to the area of study. The federal government offers a loan scheme to students to help pay for their University education. This is called HECS-HELP. Students pay back the loan once they reach the minimum threshold for compulsory repayment. For more information about attending University in Australia, visit


The Australian education system also includes TAFE, which stands for Technical and Further Education. TAFE courses are vocational, which means they are designed to expedite entry into a job after graduation. A TAFE education costs considerably less than university.

Independent Higher Education

A range of independent institutions also offer further study options. These include the Australian Defence Force Academy, National Institute of Dramatic Arts and the Australian Institute of Music.

The types of schools in Australia

Public/State Schools

Public or 'State' schools in Australia are non-fee paying schools. They are run by the Department of Education (part of the Australian Government), which funds Public school education. Most are co-educational day schools, with a small number of high schools also being boarding schools. Most State schools request voluntary levies from parents to fund extra resources and activities. Other expenses include uniforms, text books and field excursions. Students usually attend a State school that is geographically close to their home. Some State schools house both Primary and Secondary schools on the same campus (usually rural areas). State schools must follow federal government guidelines when setting their curriculum. This means the curriculum is similar in State schools across the country.

Private Schools

Private schools are partially funded by the government but also charge fees. These fees are usually quite high and depend on factors including a student's age, the school's location and its reputation. As a guide, fees can range from $2,000 to $13,000 per year. Most Private schools offer scholarships for tuition fees that are awarded based on academic ability.

Private schools are regularly regarded as providing the best education in Australia. Private schools are available from Kindergarten level through to Secondary school. There are also Private schools that offer 'alternative' education including Montessori and Rudolf Steiner schools. The Catholic Church also operates the most Private schools in Australia, teaching one third of Private school students.

Australia has both day and boarding Private schools. Private schools are often single-sex, especially at Secondary school level. Private schools usually have smaller class sizes, which may contribute to their reputation as offering a superior education to Public schools. In Private schools, each year level is usually referred to as a 'form', in line with British naming conventions. Private schools often have long waiting lists for entry.

Home Schooling

Parents can choose to Home School their children, rather than send them to a traditional Public or Private school. No teaching qualifications are needed by parents. Parents can teach their children or employ a tutor. For more information, search for the Alternative Education Resources Group in the state or territory you're interested in.

Special Learning Schools

Australia has dedicated schools for children with deafness and blindness. There are also hospital schools for children who are sick and are hospitalised for long periods. Many schools also have special programs for students with learning difficulties and disabilities. Parents are encouraged to send children with disabilities to mainstream schools. For more information, search for the Specific Learning Difficulties Association (SPELD).

More information about schools in Australia

  • The school year in Australia starts in late January and finishes in December, just before Christmas.
  • Every two years, students' literacy skills are tested as part of the Literacy For All program. This program has raised Australia's numeracy and literacy levels.
  • Each school has a Parents and Citizens committee. Parents and teachers work together to decide on school policies, some curriculum and to raise extra funds.
  • Local students are given priority entry to their closest school and are guaranteed a place at their local high school. Students can attend a non-local school if there is a vacancy.
  • Admission enquiries can be made straight to a school's principal (headmaster).
  • During Primary and Secondary school, Parent-Teacher interviews are held, which give teachers and parents the opportunity to discuss a student's progress.
  • In Primary school, students usually have one teacher. In Secondary school, students usually have one teacher for each subject.

The School Day

School usually starts between 8-9am and finishes by 3-4pm. Students are given a morning break, lunch break, and in some schools, an afternoon break. Morning, After School and Holiday Care is available at some schools for working parents.

School Holidays

Students enjoy around two weeks of holidays between school terms. Over summer the break extends to six or seven weeks. During the year, students get Public Holidays off school including Anzac Day (25 April). Plus, students are not required at school on 'Curriculum Days', which are professional days for teachers to work on the school's curriculum.

School Uniform

Most schools require students to wear uniforms. These usually include embroidered Summer, Winter and Sports uniforms.

Australian Education Glossary

College – Another name for Secondary or High school
Future SACE – South Australian Certificate of Education, received upon completion of Year 12
HECS-HELP – The Federal Government Loan scheme that enables students to defer payment of their Uni fees
HSC – Higher School Certificate, received in NSW upon completion of Year 12
Kindergarten/Kindy – The year before Primary school
NTCE – Northern Territory Certificate of Education, received upon completion of Year 12
Prep – The first year of Primary school
TAFE – Technical and Further Education
TCE – Tasmanian Certificate of Education, received in Tasmania upon completion of Year 12
Uni – Short for 'University', which offers Higher and Further Education
VCE – Victorian Certificate of Education, received upon completion of Year 12
WACE – Western Australia Certificate of Education, received in WA upon completion of Year 12
Year 12 Certificate – Received in the ACT upon completion of Year 12

Helpful Australian Education Links

Australian Federal Government:
Northern Territory:
South Australia:
Western Australia:

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