The Australian education system is similar to the systems of many developed countries. Children attend primary and secondary school, and many continue to higher education. Australian schools are primarily publically owned and funded, while a small percentage are considered private schools. Degrees from Australian schools are recognized worldwide and Australia is known for having a robust higher education system.
From about the age of five to the age of fifteen, school is compulsory for Australians. Each state or territory is responsible for setting the standards, policies, and rules for its primary and secondary schools. The Australian government provides funding and infrastructure to schools around the country, in hopes that the quality of public schools will continue to improve. The Australian government is currently looking for a solution to the lack of sufficient improvement in student outcomes. Although funding has increased over the past decade, there has not been a change in the quality of public schools. Like other countries seeking alternatives to current schooling systems, Australia is looking for ways to better prepare students for life.
Following primary and secondary education, Australian students can advance to tertiary education, which includes university and vocational education and training. English is the official language of Australia and its education system, which makes it a popular destination for international students. Australia is also home to many of the top universities in the world.
Introduced in 1995, the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) makes it easier to compare a tertiary education degree to those from international schools and the more than one thousand institutions of higher education in Australia. After graduating from any school in Australia, a student earns a degree that is ranked on a scale from one to ten. For example, a Bachelor’s degree is a Level 7 qualification, but a Bachelor’s (Honours) degree is a Level 8, the same level as a Graduate Certificate or Diploma. In order for a school to issue one of these standardized qualifications to graduating students, the school must meet government standards. In a sense, institutions approved by the government can be considered accredited institutions.
Students who choose to continue with higher education can receive many different degrees from Australian institutions. Options include an Advanced Diploma, an Associate’s degree, a Bachelor’s degree, a Bachelor’s (Honours) degree, a Graduate Certificate, a Graduate Diploma, a Master’s degree, and a Doctoral degree. After secondary school, students may also choose to obtain a certificate in their chosen field of work. According to AQF specifications for earning certificates, students must learn specialized skills in a particular vocation. Certificate levels range from Level 1 to Level 4, corresponding with AQF Levels 1 through Level 4, with each subsequent certificate requiring more knowledge. A Diploma equates to an AQF Level 5, as opposed to an Advanced Diploma, which equates to an AQF level 6, the same level as an Associate’s degree.
Before Europeans settled in Australia, the only known inhabitants of the country were aboriginals. When explorers discovered the land, aboriginal people were not included in the British Empire’s plan for the soon-to-be colony. In modern times, the government has made efforts to repair the relationship between the indigenous people of this region and those of European descent. Indigenous Education Units (IEU) provide a support network for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students on university campuses. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet also provides support for these students through scholarships and assistance.
Most tertiary education institutions in Australia are public institutions, which means that they mostly rely on government funding and grants. Proposed changes to the higher education system in Australia have been under debate recently. While some government officials feel that higher education is over-funded, others believe that cutting the budget will lower the quality of public universities. The Education Investment Fund (EIF) pays for public university infrastructure. Recently, it was decided that the money allocated for this fund would be redirected to efforts for disabled citizens. Existing programs that receive funding from EIF will continue to do so, but new projects will not be accepted. Institutions of higher education are still funded by the Higher Education Support Act (HESA), which has been providing a majority of funding since 2003.