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 for kids younger than 17 and older than five. However, the government also actively encourages parents to enrol their children in one year of early education (pre-school) prior to primary school.
Primary school in Australia lasts from Kindergarten to Year 6 (5 to 12 years old), and high school runs from Year 7 to 12 (12 to 18 years old).
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. Though the country is rolling out a national curriculum, each individual state or territory is still responsible for managing and implementing education in their respective area.
It follows that just as school standard can vary from one to the next, the overall level of achievement can differ from state to state. Victoria and New South Wales consistently claim some of the best institutions.
State schools are open and accessible to expats; but those living in Oz with a temporary residency visa (subclass 457) will need to pay the fixed tuition fee associated with their state or territory; only some states enforce this. Those living in Australia with a permanent residency visa can send their children to school for free; though, "voluntary contributions" are still expected from all students - local and foreign.
Furthermore, additional costs, like school uniforms and stationary, must also be paid, and each school tends to have its own levies (which usually amount to a couple hundred Australian dollars per term).
Children attend the public school that corresponds with their catchment zone, or geographic area; 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 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 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.
Private schools are more likely to offer an International Baccalaureate curriculum than public schools and, for this reason, many expat parents prefer this education option. The prestige and reputation associated with these places of learning is not without a price, however.
Furthermore, the most popular private schools may have long waiting lists, and the most academically selective may require students to pass an exam prior to enrolment.
There are a small contingency of international schools on offer in the larger cities for those expats who would like their children to continue with their home country's curriculum.
Faith-based schools in Australia
Falling between, but not forgotten, are the faith-based schools. While these institutions are run according to a religious order, they still place a strong emphasis on academics. The majority of faith-based schools in Australia are Catholic, and nearly all of them identify the need to instil a sense of religious value and belief in students.
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.
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.