School and Education in Australia

Since the early 1990s, there has been a strong focus on education in Australia, and in particular on the relationship between education and working life. Australia has a decentralized school system. Six states and three territories are basically responsible for all education, but the differences between states are not very large.

There are no national curricula, but the states cooperate on this. The Central Ministry of Education has developed eight key learning areas that all students are taught: English, mathematics, science, social sciences, shaping, technology, physical education and foreign languages. The language of instruction is English.

Australia Country Flag

Australia flag source: Countryaah.com

Basic education

Teaching is compulsory for ages 6-15 (in Tasmania to 16 years). Practically all children in this age group attend school. Most children also attend preschool from the age of 5, and more than half of the children attend preschool when they are 4 years old.

Preschool services are government-funded. Many children also attend kindergarten before they are 4 years old, but parents have to pay for it themselves. The primary school lasts for 6 or 7 years. The high school lasts 5 or 6 years, and students usually start there when they are 12 years old. 72 percent complete 13 years of education.

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The proportion of pupils attending private schools is approx. 29 percent. Most private schools are religious. More than 70% of private schools belong to the Catholic Church.

Higher education

Education beyond high school is twofold. One sector is called VET (Vocational Education and Training) and is skills-based. VET institutions include technical and other colleges (TAFE) with approx. 1.5 million students (1999). These institutions are run by the states and territories. The second type includes higher education with 36 universities, 8 specialist institutions and several private universities, with a total of approx. 0.6 million students. The universities are independent.

Australia attracts many foreign students. Over 150,000 foreign students studied at Australian universities and colleges in 1999.

PISA survey

Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2006 ranked the educational system in Australia of 56 nations as 6 for reading, 8 for science and 13 for mathematics. The United Nations Education Index in 2008, data from 2006, lists Australia as 0.993, which is among the highest in the world.

January 26 Invasion Day

On January 26, Australia celebrates its National Day. But the National Day of the White Occupation is a day of mourning for the country’s indigenous people: Aboriginal people. January 26, 2019, however, was different. Hundreds of thousands demonstrated across the country in Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra, Hobart, Perth, Adelaide and Darwin towards the anniversary of the British invasion of Australia. The counter-demonstrations against the festivities of the authorities themselves have taken place in recent years as an expression of the increasing awareness of the massacres of British herds on the country’s indigenous population. The victors write history, and for hundreds of years massacres and extinction of the original population were written out of the textbooks, but the knowledge of centuries of oppression is now on the rise. (Huge crowds attend Invasion Day marches across Australia’s capital cities, Guardian 26/1 2019; The Killing Times: the massacres of Aboriginal people Australia must confront, Guardian 3/3 2019; The Killing Times. Interactive representation of the extinction of Australia’s indigenous population, Guardian 3/3 2019; When we were in school, we didn’t learn about the massacres. First Dog on the Moon, Guardian 8/3 2019)

The country’s summer 2018/19 was history’s hottest. Both December and January hit warmer records. The average temperature in January reached above 30 ºC for the first time in history and in several places in the country the temperature was just below 50.. (Australia’s extreme heat is sign of things to come, scientists warn, Guardian 1/2 2019)

In mid-March, an Australian Nazi conducted a massacre at 2 mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing over 50. The massacre was the logical consequence of 20 years of increasingly right-wing politics in the country and demonization of Muslims. Throughout the 20th century, Australia contributed soldiers to all US wars, and after September 11, 2001, the country also contributed soldiers to the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq respectively. In the country’s right-wing media controlled by Rupert Murdoch, the conflict was told as a war between the good (Christian Australians and North Americans) and evil (Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq). This falsification of history paved the way for a Nazi refugee policy that closed the country’s borders to refugees from Asia, instead sent to Australian funded and controlled refugee camps in Nauru and New Guinea. For 20 years, racism and xenophobia were embedded in the country’s political and media DNA. The terrorist had received his education in the Australian schools, in the Australian media and by the Australian politicians. (Australians are asking how did we get here? Well, Islamophobia is practically enshrined as public policy, Guardian 17/3 2019)