Bloomsbury Education and Childhood Studies Country Pages


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Country overview



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DOI: 10.5040/9781350995963.0010

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    Bloomsbury Publishing
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Bloomsbury Education and Childhood Studies Country
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Country overview

Primary and secondary schooling is managed by states/territories. This means there is no single system of education in Australia.[1] Nevertheless, policies and regulations between state/territory educational jurisdictions are broadly similar.[2] The federal government is also involved with schooling and is responsible for establishing a national curriculum, conducting national assessments of student academic achievement, and providing publicly available data about all schools. The federal government also provides funding to schools, especially nongovernment (private) schools.

Schooling is compulsory until 16 to 17 years of age, depending on the state/territory and date of birth.[3]

Each state/territory has an education department, which manages all government primary and secondary schools.[4] Government schools do not charge tutition fees,[5] although they expect parents to pay voluntary charges and contributions.

As of 2017, 41 percent of secondary school students and 30 percent of primary school students were enrolled in nongovernment schools.[6] Of those attending a nongovernment school, 22 percent of secondary school students and 19 percent of primary school students attended a Catholic school.[7] Tuition fees for nongovernment schools vary. All nongovernment schools receive some government funding.

Universities are self-accrediting, and regulation and governance is shared between the state/territory, the federal government, and the university itself. Funding is provided primarily by the federal government. Australia has forty universities, thirty-eight of which are public. Universities in Australia are high achieving and are the third most popular destination for international students. Australia has six universities in the top 100 on the Times Higher Education World Universities Rankings.[8]

The number of 15-to-64-year-olds with one post school qualification (university degree or vocational qualification) has increased by 57 percent between 1996 and 2011.

Read more about education and childhood in Australia

Statistical information

GDP (current US$)

School enrollment, primary (% gross)

Life expectancy at birth, total (years)

Population, total

Full country profile

Regional Editor

Laura B. Perry, Associate Professor, Murdoch University, Australia

Laura B. Perry is Associate Professor of comparative education and education policy in the School of Education at Murdoch University. She conducts research about inequalities of educational opportunities, experiences and outcomes as they occur between schools and education systems, and the policies and structures that shape them. She is particularly interested in educational marketization and the causes and consequences of school socioeconomic segregation. More broadly, she is interested in understanding how schooling can meet the needs of individuals, communities and the larger society, in a way that is equitable and promotes well-being, creativity, and innovation.


  • Tiffany Banner (Murdoch University, Australia)

  • Lisa J. Cary (Murdoch University, Australia)

  • Alice Chik (Macquarie University, Australia)

  • Wendy Cumming-Potvin (Murdoch University, Australia)

  • Alma Fleet (Macquarie University, Australia)

  • Indika Liyanage (Deakin University, Australia)

  • Zane Ma Rhea (Monash University, Australia)

  • Andrew Norton (Grattan Institute, Australia)

  • Laura Perry (Murdoch University, Australia)

  • Deborah Pino-Pasternak (Murdoch University, Australia)

  • Emma Rowe (Deakin University, Australia)

  • Richard Teese (University of Melbourne, Australia)

  • Nicola Yelland (Flinders University, Australia)

[1] M. Crossley, G. Hancock, and T. Sprague, Education in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific (London: Bloomsbury, 2015), 19.

[2] Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), National Report on Schooling in Australia 2016 (Canberra: ACARA, 2018). https://www.acara.edu.au/reporting/national-report-on-schooling-in-australia-2016 (accessed January 9, 2019).

[3] Ibid.

[4] Crossley, Hancock, and Sprague, Education in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, 26.

[5] Ibid., 27.

[6] Australian Bureau of Statistics (2018), 4221.0 - Schools, Australia, 2017 http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4221.0main+features22017 (accessed January 9, 2019).

[7] ACARA National Report on Schooling in Australia 2016.