Education System in Australia: Structure, Funding, Quality and Challenges

Australia has a strong education system that has been consistently ranked as one of the best in the world. This article provides an overview of the education system in Australia, including the structure, funding, and quality of education. The article also covers the challenges and opportunities in the Australian education system, with a focus on the recent reforms and initiatives aimed at improving the quality of education for all students.

The Structure of the Education System in Australia

Early Childhood Education

Early childhood education in Australia is offered to children aged 0 to 5 years old. It is an optional phase of education that provides children with opportunities to develop social, emotional, physical and intellectual skills in a safe and supportive environment. There are two main types of early childhood education in Australia: childcare and kindergarten. Childcare is typically focused on providing care for children while their parents are at work, while kindergarten provides educational and play-based activities that support children’s learning and development.

Primary and Secondary Education

Primary and secondary education in Australia is compulsory for all children aged between 6 and 17 years old. The primary and secondary education system in Australia is divided into two stages: primary school and high school. Primary school in Australia is usually from Kindergarten to Year 6 and high school from Year 7 to Year 12. The curriculum in primary and secondary schools is set by the state or territory government, but is generally aligned with the Australian Curriculum, which sets out the knowledge, skills and values that all students should learn.

Tertiary Education

Tertiary education in Australia refers to education provided by universities and vocational education and training (VET) providers. Universities in Australia offer degrees and higher education courses, while VET providers offer vocational education and training programs, such as apprenticeships and traineeships. The Australian Government regulates the quality and standards of tertiary education through the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA).

Funding of Education in Australia

Federal and State Funding

Education in Australia is funded by a combination of federal and state governments, as well as private funding. The Australian Government provides funding for early childhood, primary, and secondary education through the National School Reform Agreement. This agreement outlines the responsibilities and funding arrangements between the federal government and the state and territory governments for the delivery of education. The state and territory governments are responsible for the delivery of education and provide additional funding to support their education systems.

Private Funding

In addition to government funding, private funding also plays a role in the education system in Australia. Private schools receive a portion of their funding from the government, but also rely on tuition fees and private donations to fund their operations. Some private schools also offer scholarships and bursaries to students who are unable to pay tuition fees.

Scholarships and Bursaries

Scholarships and bursaries are also available to students in the Australian education system to support their education and help them achieve their goals. Scholarships are typically awarded based on merit, while bursaries are awarded based on financial need. Both scholarships and bursaries are available at all levels of education, from early childhood to tertiary education.

Quality of Education in Australia

National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN)

The National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) is a national assessment program that measures the literacy and numeracy skills of students in Years 3, 5, 7, and 9. NAPLAN provides a snapshot of student performance and is used by schools, governments, and the wider community to monitor and improve the quality of education in Australia.

International Comparisons of Education Standards

Australia’s education system is consistently ranked highly on international comparisons of education standards. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a global assessment of student performance in mathematics, science, and reading. Australia’s PISA results have consistently placed the country in the top 10 of participating countries.

The Role of Teachers in Improving Quality of Education

Teachers play a crucial role in improving the quality of education in Australia. They are responsible for delivering the curriculum and providing students with the skills, knowledge, and values they need to succeed in life. The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) is responsible for setting and maintaining the standards for teaching in Australia, and provides support and resources to help teachers improve their practice and improve the quality of education.

Challenges and Opportunities in the Australian Education System

Addressing Inequities in Education

Despite the overall quality of the education system in Australia, there are still significant inequities in access to education and student outcomes. Indigenous students, students from low-income families, and students with disabilities are more likely to experience educational disadvantage and underachievement. Addressing these inequities is a key challenge for the Australian education system and requires a whole-of-system approach, including addressing the root causes of disadvantage, providing targeted support to students, and ensuring that all students have access to quality education.

Integration of Technology in Education

The integration of technology in education is an opportunity to improve the quality and accessibility of education in Australia. The use of technology in education can support student learning, improve teacher practice, and provide greater access to education for all students. The Australian Government has invested in the Digital Education Revolution, which aims to improve the use of technology in education and increase access to digital learning resources.

Internationalisation of Education

Internationalisation of education is an opportunity for the Australian education system to engage with the world and improve the quality of education for all students. Internationalisation can involve student exchanges, teacher exchanges, international partnerships, and the inclusion of international perspectives in the curriculum. This can enhance students’ cultural understanding, broaden their perspectives, and provide them with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in a globalised world.


The education system in Australia is characterised by a strong commitment to quality and equity, a range of funding sources, and a focus on improving student outcomes. Despite the high quality of the education system, there are still significant inequities in access to education and student outcomes that need to be addressed. The integration of technology in education and the internationalisation of education offer exciting opportunities to improve the quality and accessibility of education in Australia.


  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). (2017). Education and Work, Australia, May 2017. Retrieved from
  2. Department of Education and Training. (2017). National School Reform Agreement. Retrieved from
  3. Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). (2015). Results in Focus: What 15-Year-Old Students Know and What They Can Do with What They Know. Retrieved from
  4. The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL). (2017). The Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. Retrieved from
  5. Australian Government Department of Education and Training. (2017). Digital Education Revolution. Retrieved from
  6. Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER). (2017). International Comparisons of Education. Retrieved from
  7. Department of Education and Training. (2017). Indigenous Education. Retrieved from
  8. Department of Education and Training. (2017). Scholarships and Bursaries. Retrieved from
  9. National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN). (2017). About NAPLAN. Retrieved from
  10. Department of Education and Training. (2017). Addressing Inequities in Education. Retrieved from
  11. Department of Education and Training. (2017). Internationalisation of Education. Retrieved from
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