Study in Australia!
By Glenda Inverarity
The recent Olympic games in Sydney demonstrated that Australia is a sophisticated country bursting with talent, enthusiasm and creativity. Students who are considering international study should give Australia some serious attention. Perhaps the most confusing part of international study is deciphering the many educational systems. This article will outline the Australian education system.
History of Education in Australia
Australia was established as a British colony, but it does not follow the British education system. The reason is in Australia's convict past. The wealthy free settlers and the religious leaders in Old Sydney Town were concerned about the morality of the convicts' children. They were known as the Currency Lads and Lasses, and these children roamed around unattended while their convict parents worked.
The religious leaders applied to Britain for the children to attend compulsory schooling where they were given a strict moral, religious education. This was before schooling was available for ordinary children in Britain, so Australia developed an education system before Britain had developed one for their masses. Because it was compulsory, it was also free, and still is for Australian citizens.
Primary and Secondary School in Australia
The school system has two main levels - Primary and Secondary, and schooling is compulsory for all children aged between 6 and 15 years of age. Primary school goes to grade 6 or 7 depending on the state, then secondary school continues through to grade 12 or 13. The final two years of school are important and two options are open to these students. They can take internal (school based) examinations, but cannot use these results for university entrance, or they take external examination coordinated by the state for the purpose of university entrance.
Tertiary Education in Australia
The tertiary sector has two levels, Tertiary and Further Education (TAFE), and Universities. TAFE provides trade certificates, diplomas, advanced diplomas and a few degree courses. Their courses are varied and cover para-professional vocations such as Clerical Skills, Information Technology, Hospitality, Electronics etc. Secondary students who sit the internal examinations often note that TAFE courses that have a more practical, vocational focus than the theoretical studies offered by the universities.
Universities cater for undergraduate students studying degrees right through the range of postgraduate courses to Ph.D. qualifications. Places for local students (for whom education is free) are quite competitive, while fee paying international students are welcomed with open arms.
International students can apply for any level of university study, depending on their background education and usually make their applications directly to each of the universities. This means that international students can target universities that specialize in their interests and can apply to several at once. Most of them offer information about international applications on their web sites. It is sometimes possible for international students to get scholarships to study in Australia, at post-graduate level.
The Academic Year in Australia
In Australia, the academic year runs from January to December, but universities don't start classes until late February and finish in early November. Students who do not have English as their first language are sometimes required to attend a one-year foundation course to improve their English, but most of them find this year to be very useful and helpful.