The Australian education
system is quite unique; being a strange hybrid
of other systems. It's neither British
as one might at first suspect.
Students begin with primary school
from the age of about 5 or 6, for a period of six years. There are both private
primary schools. The private
ones are quite expensive, it's usual to pay between A$1500 and A$5000 for these. Public
schools tend to be coeducational
, whereas private
schools are usually not. Primary education is compulsory. Typical primary schools have 150 to 300 students. Catholic
schools form a "middle ground" between private and public schools. Public schools usually have a uniform
, but it's pretty casual
and not too heavily enforced
. Private schools have uniforms
that are strictly enforced. Primary school is referred to as Years 1 to 6. In some states "kindergarten" or "prep" -- a year before year 1 -- is considered compulsory.
Unlike the United States
, there is no "junior high" in Australia, there's just "high school", which goes from Years 7 to 12. There are a wide variety of options available for high schools. These include:
- Private, public or Catholic: Private schools, as mentioned are incredibly expensive, but the rich can afford them; usually from A$5000 to A$15000 a year. Public schools vary in their quality a great deal; some are better than private schools. Catholic schools are a middle ground. Many private schools offer scholarships, either full or half for bright students. Most schools have a uniform; they just differ on how strictly they are enforced.
- Coed or single gender: Private schools are almost universally single gender, as are catholic schools. Some government schools are coed, most are single gender.
- Specialised or non-specialised: Some high schools specialise in particular areas, you might have agricultural schools, or performing arts schools, or language schools. Most, though, are general schools.
- Selective vs non-selective: Some schools, both private and public, are hard to get into and entry is by competition, while others will accept anyone who enrols there.
High school is compulsory until Year 10, when students do their School Certificate
or equivalent, depending on the state. You can't go to University
with a School Certificate
Students who stay on to Year 12 attempt the Higher School Certificate or equivalent. The students choose a certain number of units of subjects to do, usually around 12 or 13. Their best ten units are taken and totalled, and students ranked are given a University Admission Index (UAI), with a UAI of 100 indicating that you were top of the state, and a UAI of, say, 70, meaning that you were better than 70 per cent of candidates in that state.
University education entry is competitive and is based on the UAI received in the Higher School Certificate. Universities specify how many places are available for each course, and the top students by UAI are allowed to enrol. Students do pay fees, but they're not as massive as American ones (usually between A$3500 and A$5500 per year), nor do they have to be paid upfront. Rather there is a higher education contribution scheme (HECS), which means that students pay higher tax rates for the first few years after they graduate to recover the total cost of their degrees. Australia has a total of 36 universities. Arts and science bachelors' degrees are usually 3 years with an additional year for honours. Engineering bachelors' degrees are four years. Law degrees (which must also include another degree) are usually 5 years, with medicine 6 years. Masters degrees are usually 2 years after a bachelor's degree, and doctorates are 3 to 5 years after either masters or bachelors.
There are also technical and further education (TAFE) colleges available to teach vocational stuff, like plumbing, electronics etc. Usual course duration is 1 year or 2 years. Entry is by application.