Education in Australia

Formal education in Australia occurs at preschool, school, vocational education and training (VET) and higher education levels. Early childhood education in Australia comprises programs in preschools and nurseries. In general, preschool refers to structured educational programs provided for children during the year before their full-time primary education starts. Preschools may be operated by the government, community organizations or the private sector. Long day child care centers and other settings may provide similar educational programs or curricula.

After preschool, in primary schools in most states and territories in Australia there is a preparatory or kindergarten year (pre-Year 1), which is followed by six or seven year or grade levels. For a student to complete a full course of school study, there is a further five to six years of secondary schooling. Primary and secondary schools are mostly separate institutions, but there is a growing trend, among independent schools in particular, towards combined primary and secondary schools. Compulsory school attendance has traditionally encompassed the ages of five or six to 15 or 16, depending on the state or territory.

The director-general (or equivalent) of education for each state or territory is directly responsible for government schools, which receive basic funding from the relevant government. Non-government schools operate under conditions, which are determined by local government regulatory authorities, and receive Australian and state of territory government funding. Individual schools typically follow guidelines and determine their own teaching and learning approaches, while there is a variety of course options.

In primary school pupils need to develop basic language and literacy skills, simple arithmetic, moral values and social education, health training and personal development as well as some creative activities. At senior school, from the age of 11, pupils study English language and literature, mathematics, science, social studies, music appreciation, art and craft, physical education and health, as well as a range of optional subjects. In some jurisdictions pupils are able to select optional subjects in addition to a basic core of subjects after one or two years of studying a general program, while in other jurisdictions students are able to select options from the beginning. After the minimum school leaving age, students may leave school and look for a job or enroll in a vocational course with a vocational education and training institution. To be able to continue to higher education, students almost always need to complete satisfactorily a senior secondary school certificate.

In Australia there are private training providers of VET, but publicly-funded training providers account for most of the VET students. Publicly-funded providers are predominantly government administered technical and further education (TAFE) colleges or institutes. Higher education institutions, secondary schools and colleges, agricultural and technical colleges, and adult and community organizations can also provide publicly-funded VET. Private training organizations, business colleges, industry associations, adult and community organizations, and employers can be private VET providers.

Programs offered by VET providers include traditional trades, advanced technical training, para-professional and professional studies as well as basic employment and educational preparation. Formal VET study provides nationally recognized qualifications for employment, but students may also choose to complete just one or two subjects in order to gain specific skills and not complete a full qualification.

Children with disabilities or those living too far away from an appropriate institution, such as those in families living on sheep stations in the outback, may be exempted from attending a school. Various means for receiving tuition in such cases include distance education, use of computer, facsimile, and satellite technologies. In the second half of the 20th centrury the Australian educational authorities developed the School of the Air, with lessons conducted on the radio for distance learning of children. The state and territory Department of Education sets down criteria that children need to meet in order to be home-schooled.

The Australian government provides funding for self-accrediting and non-self-accrediting public and private providers of higher education. Self-accrediting providers are autonomous institutions that operate in accordance with the Australian government funding requirements. Non-self-accrediting institutions, which are mainly private providers of different sizes, are accredited by state and territory authorities.

Higher education institutions provide a range of undergraduate and post-graduate courses, which are various in terms of form, entry requirements, duration and method of assessment. Courses can be delivered on-campus or by distance education. Disciplines covered by courses include the humanities, social sciences, education, environment education, science, mathematics and computing, visual and performing arts, engineering and processing, health sciences, businesses, economics, law and agriculture.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Sociological Theory and Educational Reality: Education and Society in Australia since 1949
Alan Barcan.
New South Wales University Press, 1993
The Primary School in Changing Times: The Australian Experience
Tony Townsend.
Routledge, 1998
Exceptionally Gifted Children
Miraca U. M. Gross.
Routledge, 2004 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Gifted Education in Australia"
Schooling Reform in Hard Times
Bob Lingard; John Knight; Paige Porter.
Falmer Press, 1993
Librarian’s tip: Part II "Restructuring Australian Education: Comparative Perspectives"
International Handbook of Curriculum Research
William F. Pinar.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "Curriculum Inquiry in Australia: Toward a Local Genealogy of the Curriculum Field"
International Perspectives on Intercultural Education
Kenneth Cushner.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Intercultural Education in Australia"
Multicultural Education: An International Guide to Research, Policies, and Programs
Bruce M. Mitchell; Robert E. Salsbury.
Greenwood Press, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Australia"
Public or Private Education? Lessons from History
Richard Aldrich.
Woburn Press, 2004
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 9 "Public Commitment and Private Choice in Australian Secondary Education"
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Special Education Policy and Practice in Australia
Prosser, Brenton; Reid, Robert; Shute, Rosalyn; Atkinson, Ivan.
Australian Journal of Education, Vol. 46, No. 1, June 2002
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
School and Classroom Practices in Inclusive Education in Australia
van Kraayenoord, Christina E.
Childhood Education, Vol. 83, No. 6, August 15, 2007
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Tomorrow's Teachers: International and Critical Perspectives on Teacher Education
Alan G. Scott; John G. Freeman-Moir.
Canterbury University Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: "Contemporary Issues and Imperatives: Teacher Education in Australia" begins on p. 43
Schools for Young Adults: Senior Colleges in Australia
Polesel, John.
Australian Journal of Education, Vol. 46, No. 2, August 2002
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Endgame for National Girls' Schooling Policies in Australia?
Ailwood, Jo; Lingard, Bob.
Australian Journal of Education, Vol. 45, No. 1, April 2001
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Indigenous Australians and Preschool Education: Who Is Attending?
Biddle, Nicholas.
Australian Journal of Early Childhood, Vol. 32, No. 3, September 2007
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Education of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Students: Repair or Radical Change
Reynolds, Richard J.
Childhood Education, Vol. 82, No. 1, Fall 2005
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
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