There are small differences in school education between states and territories.
Postsecondary education is offered in 2 sectors – the higher education sector and the vocational education and training (VET) sector.
Language of instruction
English is both the official language of Australia and the language of instruction. Some schools offer bilingual programs or programs in other languages. Indigenous languages may also be used in some regions.
Many schools offer students a choice of foreign language studies, including Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Bahasa Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Modern Greek and Spanish. Foreign language classes can start in preschool, but usually begin in secondary school.
The school year is from February to December. Most states and territories have 4 terms per year but Tasmania has a 3-term school year.
In the vocational education and training (VET) sector, the teaching year for Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institutes and colleges is from late January to mid-December; in some states and territories it is divided into 3 terms, while others use a semester system.
In the higher education sector, most universities have 2 semesters, and the academic year begins in February and ends in November. Some universities, including BondUniversity, have 3 academic semesters. Some non-university institutions run programs year round.
Administration and finance
The Australian Government and the Australian states and territories share responsibilities for the administration and financing of education. Exact arrangements depend on the educational sector and legislative responsibilities.
Consultation between the Australian Government and the states and territories is through the Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA). MCEETYA was established in 1993 and includes Australian, New Zealand and state and territory ministers responsible for the portfolios of education, employment, training and youth affairs.
Distance and external education
All states and territories provide distance or external school education programs. Many VET and higher education institutions offer distance or external courses. Online courses are now widely available as well as more traditional correspondence programs.
Education system reforms
The Australian Government education policy is outlined in the New Directions Paper – The Australian economy needs an education revolution. This was released in January 2007, when the Australian Labor Party (ALP) was still the Opposition, prior to forming government in November 2007.
Proposed reforms include:
Improving learning outcomes;
Implementing a national school curriculum;
Increasing school retention rates; and
Providing more funding for schools, vocational education and training, higher education and research.