The standard of the Australian education system is high. State schools (known as public schools) are free for all Australian and permanent citizens (of school age) but parents are often ‘asked’ to financially contribute to state studies. Perhaps unsurprisingly, therefore, there is a higher uptake of private education than in the UK, with around a third of pupils attending private and Catholic schools. Some of the best school in Australia offer exceptional facilities, but at a higher cost.

According to the most recent OECD figures, Australia spends a little less on education as a percentage of GDP than the UK.[1] Yet, the World Economic Forum indicates that   Australia’s educational attainment is better, with the country ranked 9th best in the world.[2] In 2016, there was an average of one teacher per 13.7 students.

Children typically undergo 12 years of formal education (primary and secondary schools). This usually starts at six years and continues through to the age of 17. Education systems do vary slightly across different states and territories, but they follow the same basic curriculum and structure.

Australia scores highly for its universities too. According to a report published in the Sydney Morning Herald, Australia is the 5th most popular destination for international students.[3] It has six universities in the world’s top 100, as stated in The Times Higher Education rankings.[4]

Australian education from start to finish

  • Pre-school programmes are largely unregulated and are not compulsory. Attendance numbers vary between Australia’s states, but collectively 85% of children attend pre-school, which is the year before Year 1.
  • Primary school runs from Year 1 to Year 6 (typically ages 6 to 12). Attendance is compulsory across all years.
  • Secondary schools run from Year 7 to Year 12 (typically ages 13 to 17). Attendance is compulsory up until the child turns 17 or gains a qualification.
  • Tertiary education: Australia has 43 universities (40 public, 2 international and 1 private). Of these, 31 institutions are listed in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.[5] The largest university is Monash University in Melbourne, which boasts 5 campuses and 75,000 students. Just like in the UK, students in Australia pay fees, which means they graduate with debts in the tens of thousands of dollars. Repayments begin when the graduate hits a certain income.

Types of Schools in Australia

In 2010, 66% of students in Australia attended government schools, 20% attended Catholic schools and 14% private/independent schools. Home schooling is an option too, especially in rural areas.

State Schools (Public Schools)

In theory, government schools are free to attend for Australian citizens and permanent residents. However, as well paying for school stationery and uniforms, you will often be asked to pay a ‘voluntary contribution’ that can run into the thousands of dollars. According to ‘The Good Schools Guide’, the typical cost of a child in state secondary education in major Australian cities is around $4,500.

Most schools have school uniforms, but this can vary based on the school and state. All schools follow the same curriculum, which is governed by the state or territory.

Private and independent schools

The independent sector is dominated by Catholic schools. These cost around $13,000 per year per pupil. Independent schools, which may also be religiously based, can cost as much as $30,000 per year. That’s still much cheaper than the big private schools in the UK.[6]

Home Schooling

Home schooling is a legal and viable option in Australia. There is population of home-schooled pupils in Australia, with some 30,000 children. Home schooling is governed by the Education Act, but the legislative policies can vary for each state. Parents must fully comply with state guidelines and are fully responsible for the education of their child.



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