Education and Training

Also see Beginning a Life in Australia (Chapter 4 – Education and Training)

The education system in Australia is open to all people. It offers an opportunity for all age groups and levels of ability. The wide and diverse education system provides for formal education and qualifications, training and certification. A robust education system will improve employment outcomes for students, industry and Australia as a whole. Australia has a three tier education system comprising primary, secondary and tertiary levels. 

School is compulsory for all children aged between five and 15 to 17 years depending on your state of residence. The state and territory governments provide public schools in most towns and suburbs. Public schooling is free but families are generally required to pay for uniforms, books and other implements.

Private schooling is offered by religious organisations and other groups to enable promotion of a different educational philosophy or religious education. Most private schools are Christian or independent, however larger cities often have Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist and alternative schools. Private schools rely on school fees payable at the start of the year.

Note: Students holding temporary visas may be required to pay full school fees for public schooling. Check with individual schools for details.

You can get into any level of education if you have the entry requirements. If at first you do not reach the entry standard, then you can do other study to get to the standard. Help is available for all people who suffer disadvantage. The positions in higher education have entry levels that students must achieve to enrol. The people most likely to succeed get the positions first. Some students start higher education when they finish school. Other students start study later as an adult.  

Visit the Department of Education and Training website for further information on all levels of education.

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The Australian Education System

Education in Australia is a lifetime experience. Some form of school or training is available at each stage of life. Early education develops basic language, mathematics and social skills in all children that becomes specific fields as knowledge necessary for employment. All Australians are encouraged to continue their education, maintain their current qualifications and learn new skills.

Each state and territory government manages their own education system. This means that they provide funds and regulation for their educational institutions. The links below are for the state and territory education departments to help you locate educational institutions in your area. They also contain further information on the different education systems in each state and territory.

Pre-school

Pre-school is for children between three and five years old. Pre-school is usually part-time and is not compulsory. Pre-school allows very young children to mix with their peers and to be apart from family for some time. There are a range of pre-school and day care options in most areas of Australia.

Primary school

Primary school begins for most children at age five and is compulsory for children of citizens and permanent residents. Eight themes form the basis of learning in primary school. They are English, Health and Physical Education, Languages other than English, Maths, Science, Society and Environment, Technology, and the Arts. At primary school, children begin to mix in larger groups of their peers which helps teach them respect, tolerance and teamwork. A major part of primary school learning is the skill to live in harmony with each other.

Most children attend a primary school close to where they live. In general, students attend school between 9am and 3pm for 40 weeks a year. Students must wear a uniform at most schools that needs to be pre-purchased before the child starts lessons. Children take their lunch and snacks to school or buy food at the canteen.

Secondary school

Secondary school is for older children. Most children start secondary school soon after they reach their teens. In early secondary school, students do core subjects such as English, Maths and Science. They study more subjects called electives. Students do electives to prepare for later study or because the subject is of interest to them. In later secondary school, they choose subjects that will help them in their future career. Students learn about healthy lifestyle and about becoming young adults in a diverse society. The government builds secondary schools in places to service a number of suburbs. Students may need to travel by public or private transport to get to a secondary school. In general, students attend school between 9am and 3pm for 40 weeks a year. Students wear a uniform at most schools and provide their own food.

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Further education and training

Australia provides a wide range of different learning opportunities for those leaving school and for adults seeking to upgrade their skillset. From practical, work based skills to high-level research and thinking, there are many options for learning and development. Higher education in Australia is a valuable asset for the labour market and promotes innovation in intellectual, economic, cultural and social fields.

As well as accessing education services in Australia, people who are educated overseas can gain recognition of their training. This will help with employment prospects and facilitate cultural links with other countries through education.

Technical and Vocational Training

Each state has a Vocational Education and Training (VET) or Technical and Further Education (TAFE) system. VET/TAFE prepares people for work in a career that does not need a university degree. Each state manages their system and meets at a national level to coordinate their effort. Study done in one state or territory is transferrable across state borders. Typically, a VET/TAFE course takes two years of study.

The education given by VET/TAFE prepares people for work in many occupations. You can find vocational education colleges spread over many parts of large cities. Each college delivers a selection of courses. Students pay a fee to do a VET/TAFE course. Adults who wish to do school study can do it at a vocational education college. This way they can study at a time and location that better suits them. VET and TAFE campuses are located throughout Australia and more information is available on the australia.gov.au website.

Workplace training

Many employers provide work skill training in the workplace. Some provide this training in partnership with a TAFE college. The training makes the trainees better at doing their work and prepares them for further work. Employers usually pay for such training.

In the work place, employers use agreed courses and outcomes to set standards of training for employment. Many parts of industry and business provide ongoing workplace training for their employees. Some of this training can count towards a qualification. People living in Australia are encouraged to join in and gain more education throughout their life.

University

The federal government provides the funding for universities in all the states. Each is independent in its governance. They set their courses and course content. A professional body must endorse a course for it to run. Typically, a university course takes three or four years of study. Domestic students can access HELP loans from the Australian Tax Office to pay for their tertiary education.

Universities are teaching and research institutions. They exist in large cities and in regional areas in all states. Secondary school students can gain entry based on their end of year 12 results. Mature age students gain entry based on their chance of success in their chosen course. Australian universities also have an international student intake including full fee students and those on scholarships.

A full range of academic and professional courses are available. Some jobs in Australia such as veterinarians, engineers and architects require you to attain a certain level of education from a university. Those interested in more information about Australian universities can access the studyinaustralia.gov.au website for more information about what courses are available, the location of our universities and accessing postgraduate research courses.

Adult and community education

Adult and community education programs are for fun and general interest. This form of education covers many subject matter areas. Generally, adult and community education acts as a pathway for pre-vocational, bridging, entry-level and foundation skills programs and attracting previously disengaged learners. The providers hold the courses in the community for easy access by all. They keep fees as low as possible. Courses are short and there are no restrictions on entry to a course.

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