Understanding the Australia Education System

study in australia

Understanding the Australia Education System

Whether you’ve just found a new job, are hoping to start a business or are simply setting out as an expat in Australia, it’s important to understand the country’s education system and how it will affect you and your family.

According to U.S. News & World Report, Australia’s public school systems rank fourth in the world, above France, Switzerland and United States. It’s safe to say that the opportunity to get an inexpensive, world-class education is available - but what are the downsides? How does it work? And how do you get started?
This guide will give you a holistic overview of the school system in Australia.

School Structure

Education in Australia can begin as early as age three, however schooling isn’t required until children are five. From that point forward school is continuous until age 18, though children 15 and older aren’t required to continue their education (by law). The first grade level after kindergarten is Year 1, and the final grade level before graduation to postsecondary education is year 12. It’s not unusual for students to attend the same school for the entirety of their academic careers.


Preschool is typically available for students aged three to four, and is often a government-subsidized part of the school system. That being said, each state and territory is allowed to allocate funding as necessary, and the Australian government does not require states to provide public preschools. It’s also not required for children to attend school before kindergarten.

At the preschool stage, children usually participate in activities like puzzles, painting, cutting and pasting, reading and listening to stories, playing dress up, listening to music, dancing, climbing, balancing, using computers, playing with clay, playing with sand and water and playing with blocks. According to the New South Wales Department of Education, these activities help students develop skills in problem solving, communicating and socializing, as well as building confidence and setting the stage for more formal learning. Through these learning experiences your child will explore and experiment, and develop their skills in solving problems, communicating and socialising. They’ll also develop self esteem, confidence and the foundations for their formal learning.

Primary School

Primary school is typically kindergarten through years six or seven. Starting in kindergarten, all children in Australia are required to attend school. Students in Kindergarten through Year 3 begin to attend “core” subject area classes, with a focus on literacy and numeracy. Emphasis is on English and Mathematics, however, students also begin to develop an understanding of their environment through science and social studies. Health and physical education curriculum is also introduced to help students further develop social and emotional skills.

From Year 3 to Year 6, the same subjects are continued, however, students are typically also introduced to foreign language learning at this point. In recent years there’s been an increased push towards developing a robust technologies curriculum for students in this age group, in which students develop an understanding of data, digital systems and their interactions, computational thinking, and design and creation of digital tools. Starting in primary school, children are graded on the standard Australian academic scale. This is a percentage-based system, and looks a bit different from the grade systems typically used in the US and U.K. The following scale is the most typical, however, each Australian state can and does employ its own unique grading system.

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