education in australia

Education in Australia

In Australia each state and territory maintains its own education system, meaning 8 systems in total. Each state and territory curriculum does share a great deal in common although the exams, assessment processes and the name of the school leaving certificate will vary. 

Primary schooling in most states and territories begins with a preparatory of kindergarten year, although there is a confusing variety of names given to preschool and the first year of school and a variety of entry ages. Following the six or seven primary years are a further five or six years to complete a full secondary education.

Basic Structure of Australian Schooling: States and Territories

 Entry Age
2 years before Year 1
Prep YearPrimary
ACTPreschoolKindergartenYears 1 – 6Years 7 -12
QLDKindergartenPreparatoryYears 1 – 7Years 8 – 12
NSWPreschoolKindergartenYears 1 – 6Years 7 – 12
NTPreschoolTransitionYears 1 – 7Years 8- 12
SAPreschoolReceptionYears 1 – 7Years 8 – 12
TASKindergartenPreparatoryYears 1 – 6Years 7 – 12
VICPreschoolPreparatoryYears 1 – 6Years 7 – 12
WAKindergartenPre-PrimaryYears 1 – 7Years 8 – 12

Primary Schooling

The main focus in early primary education is on the development of basic language and literacy skills, simple arithmetic, moral and social education, health training and some broad creative activities.

The latter primary years focus on building upon the base skills learned in early years, with English, mathematics, social studies, science, music, art and craft, physical education and health being studied. Optional subjects such as religious instruction, foreign languages and music may be studied depending on the school.

Secondary Schooling

In most of the secondary systems, students pursue a general programme of education in the first years at a secondary school, with the number of subjects narrowing to a core group, plus a number of electives chosen by students, in the latter years. In some systems, however, the students may choose elective subjects from the beginning of secondary school.

The various systems, particularly those applying in the latter part of secondary school can appear very complicated to expatriates returning from overseas and to incoming families on assignment in Australia – and this is further compounded by the problems inherent in transitioning a child into the Australian system. If you are moving from the Northern Hemisphere you normally have to consider whether you move your child back a year or forward a year. Some schools will offer advice in this regard, but it will usually be your decision based on the child’s academic success, adaptability and social maturity. This is subject to any rules the school may have in force regarding age cut offs.

If your child is making the transition late in secondary school, you might also wish to consider the International Baccalaureate (IB) – more and more Australian schools (largely private) are offering this as an option. It is an internationally recognised qualification for University entry and has the advantage of following a September to July school year. To see an up to date list of Australian schools offering the IB, go to

Types of Schools

Government Schools

Government (public) schools are operated by each state and territory and offer free education to all children from primary through to secondary school.

All primary and most of secondary schools have designated enrollment areas. Parents wishing to enrol children may do so with the designated school or may seek enrollment outside the area, vacancies permitting.

Although public education is free, parents are asked to contribute a small amount towards a school’s educational and sporting programs. The levy is not compulsory.

Catholic Schools

The Catholic Church provides a network of primary and secondary schools that are in suburbs and regional areas. Applications can be made to either diocesan offices or directly to the school.


Independent or privately-run schools provide a range of educational institutions at both the primary and secondary level. Independent schools may have an affiliation with a particular church or denomination or they may provide a style of education based on a different type of educational philosophy. These schools do, however, use the state curriculum as a guideline.

International schools are also classified as independent, offering education at both primary and secondary levels, with many offering the International Baccalaureate at the secondary level. International schools follow the curriculum of the country they represent. Applications should be made directly to individual schools for fees and locations.

482 TSS (Temporary Skill Shortage) Visa Holders Education Fee

From March 2018, the Australian Government introduced a new work visa in replacement of the 457 visa – the Subclass 482 Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa.  If you are intending to bring your family with you to Australia under the TSS Visa, you will need to know about school fees. Depending upon the state or territory you move to you may be required to pay school fees.  You will pay these whilst you are on the TSS visa. You no longer need to pay fees if you go on to become a Permanent Resident or Australian Citizen.

Where you live in Australia determines whether you need to pay fees or not. If you do need to pay fees, these will vary from state to state. It is important that you look at school fees in each state when looking into potential jobs. Some states have quite high school fees.

Child Care Facilities

A variety of child care facilities are available for working parents. The options include:

  • Long Day Care Centres are conducted by Local Government Councils, community-based groups and private entrepreneurs. All centres providing such care are subject to a stringent accreditation process. Care is for extended hours, days and weeks. Fees vary.

  • Private Nanny Services provide limited day care or live-in services. This form of care can be expensive.

  • Family Day Care are conducted by Local Government Councils where approved carers provide care for children in their own home. The carer is paid an hourly rate and duration of care is negotiated with the carer. There is a maximum of 5 children per carer.

  • Pre-school, Kindergartens and Occasional Care facilities offer more limited services in their hours of operation, although the cost of the service is less with this service catering for different child and parental needs.

To enrol your child, you can put your child’s name on a waiting list of any pre-school in the year your child turns three years of age.  Pre-school waiting lists are opened in March each year.  Proof of the child’s date of birth, such as birth certificate, passport, visa and immunisation certificate is required at the enrollment.

Your relocation Consultant will be able to provide you with information regarding the childcare facilities available in your area.

Tertiary Education

Technical and Further Education (TAFE)

TAFE Colleges provide a broad range of vocational and recreational courses. Many of the courses offered can be studied from hobby level through to formal tertiary qualifications (Certificate, Associate Diploma and Diploma). Educational and accreditation links have been established between TAFE, the secondary school system and universities.


Australia is very well serviced with universities offering an extensive range of courses at many capital city and rural locations. Increasing options for online study are providing greater flexibility for students.

Adult Education

A network of independent organisations offer courses for recreational, hobby and general interest purposes. Many are conducted at the local level and are held at different times of the day. Information on these courses can be obtained from local libraries, local suburban newspapers and by contacting groups such as WEA. Many universities and larger community colleges offer Continuing Education units.

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