Education and Schools in Australia
The standard of education in Australia is world-renowned, and many expats even migrate to Australia's sunny shores specifically to become students. The national government places a strong emphasis on diversity and quality and is committed to excellence in research, teaching and student support.
Concerned parents moving with children of any age will find plenty of options for school in Australia, and will need to choose between public, faith-based or private (and international) institutions. Each has their respective pros and cons, and factors influencing decisions tend to revolve around curriculum and cost.
The mandatory ages for school attendance vary from state to state, but generally, attendance is compulsory from the age of five or six to the age of 16 or 17.
Public schools in Australia
Roughly two-thirds of the local population and an impressive portion of foreigners send their children to public schools in Australia.
State schools are open and accessible to expats, but those living in Oz on a temporary residency visa will most likely need to pay the fixed tuition fee associated with their state or territory (only some states enforce this). Those living in Australia on a permanent residency visa can send their children to school for free, though "voluntary contributions" may still be expected.
Furthermore, additional costs, like school uniforms and stationery, must also be paid.
Children attend the public school that corresponds with their catchment zone, and it follows that expat parents looking to send their star-student to a stellar state school often choose accommodation based on this fact. Many schools require foreign families to provide proof of residence before actively enrolling students.
Parents with expat children approaching college age will want to carefully consider the curriculum offered by their public school of choice. While some offer an International Baccalaureate (IB) programme, most do not, and it is important to make sure that credits and certificates earned from an Australian school will be acceptable to tertiary institutions in the home country.
Private and independent schools in Australia
There are plenty of private schools in Australia and, as is the case in most countries, it is assumed these institutions boast better infrastructure, a wider range of facilities, higher-paid teachers and an elevated standard of education.
The majority of private schools in Australia are Catholic schools. While placing a high value on academics, these schools tend to teach from a religious standpoint. The extent to which religious practice and teachings are incorporated into the curriculum varies from school to school. Expat parents should speak to fellow foreign families to find an institution that aligns with their priorities.
Non-Catholic private schools, known as independent schools, include schools that subscribe to other religions (such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam) or educational ideologies (such as Montessori).
Expats who elect to send their children to one of these schools will need to pay tuition, but the fees will be nowhere near as high as those of the standard private schools. Most costs are actually less than the fees that temporary residents are expected to pay for public schools in certain states.
For this reason, expats living in states that levy public school fees often opt to send their children to these institutions.
International schools in Australia
Though there aren't as many international schools in Australia as there are in other expat destinations, there is still a selection of IB schools and, in some cities, a small number of schools offering the curricula of other countries.
However, expat parents should be warned that fees for international schools can be astronomical. Furthermore, the most popular schools may have long waiting lists, and the most academically selective may require students to pass an exam prior to enrollment. Parents who have their heart set on a particular international school may choose to enrol their child at a local school until a spot opens up.