Tag: Commonwealth

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The Australian Educational System

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.

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Higher Education in the Commonwealth System

The Commonwealth of Nations was established in 1949 and is comprised of fifty-three independent countries across Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, and the Pacific, representing roughly one-third of the world’s population. As an outgrowth of the former British Empire, the Commonwealth today seeks to unite its diverse member states through a set of common goals and values, including democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

Among other initiatives, Commonwealth countries have attempted to establish a set of uniform quality standards for both primary and higher education through a subgroup known as the Commonwealth of Learning (COL). The organization’s objectives include improving educational access through distance education and open learning programs.

Universities from thirty-seven member states are also members of the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU), the world’s first and oldest international university network. With more than five hundred member institutions, the ACU promotes cooperation between universities in areas like research and scholarships, and seeks to establish best practices in the field of higher education.

Notably, many Commonwealth countries model their higher education systems after that of the United Kingdom. Higher education is divided by undergraduate and postgraduate programs. Courses are commonly held in universities or constituent colleges, and are also taught in specialist art institutions, business schools, and agricultural colleges.

Students in some Commonwealth countries, including Singapore and Tanzania, complete either a thirteenth year of high school or a set of comprehensive post-secondary examinations comparable to the “A Level” examinations in the United Kingdom. Bachelor’s degrees generally require three years for completion, though some programs may require four years or more. Entry to postgraduate programs usually requires an undergraduate qualification. Master’s programs are typically completed in 1 to 3 years, and doctoral programs generally require at least 3 years of full-time study. Lower-level undergraduate qualifications, including a variety of National Diplomas, Higher National Diplomas, certificates, and other professional qualifications are also widely available in Commonwealth countries.

Membership in the Commonwealth is entirely voluntary, and it remains the responsibility of individual member states to set their own standards and structures for higher education. This means that while there are many similarities between the higher education systems of Commonwealth countries, there is also tremendous diversity, reflecting the specific educational needs and goals of each member state.