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Public and private education in Australia facts for kids

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Education in Australia can be classified according to sources of funding and administrative structures. There are two broad categories of school in Australia: public schools (also known as government or state schools) and private schools, which can be further subdivided into Catholic schools and independent schools.

Primary and secondary

At primary and secondary levels, government schools educate about half of students. The major part of their costs is met by the relevant state or territory government. Private schools, both religious or secular (the latter often with specialisations), may charge higher fees. Regardless of whether a school is government or private, it is regulated by the same curriculum standards framework. Most schools, government and private, enforce a uniform or dress code, although there are varying expectations.


Government (or state) schools are run by the respective state government. They offer free education; however, many schools ask parents to pay a contribution fee and a materials and services charge. They can be divided into two categories: open and selective school. Open schools accept all students from their government-defined catchment areas, and teach using the curriculum. Many open government schools have selective classes in which better-performing students are offered extended and accelerated work. Selective government schools are considered more prestigious than open government schools. They have high entrance requirements and cater to a much larger area. Entrance to selective schools is often highly competitive. Some of the renowned selective government schools are Fort Street High School, Sydney Boys High School, Sydney Girls High School, Mac.Robertson Girls' High School (first in Victoria), Melbourne High School, James Ruse Agricultural High School (first in NSW), North Sydney Boys High School, Glenunga International High School, North Sydney Girls High School, Australian Science and Mathematics School, and Perth Modern School.

Restricted access to Government schools upper tier

Note that access to Selective schools, grammar schools and upper stream of public schools is not available for people on temporary resident visa.


Scotch College Melbourne chapel 2
Chapel at Scotch College, Melbourne, a well known private Australian P-Y12 college

Private schools can be divided into two groups. Religion-based systems of education are operated by the Anglican, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic denominations as well as a number of other church or parachurch-based low-fee schools. By far the most numerous are Catholic schools, which are run by diocese-based educational institutions within the Catholic Church called the Catholic Education/Schools Offices, although some more prestigious Catholic schools are independent. The rest are known as independent schools, which are largely Protestant grammar schools. There are also a few Jewish and Islamic schools, and a growing number of independent Montessori and Waldorf schools.

The International Baccalaureate programmes are taught at over 150 schools, both private and state.

The major independent schools in each city (such as the APS Schools and the AGSV Schools in Melbourne) charge high fees (up to $30,000 per year) and are therefore able to afford facilities that government schools and church-run Catholic schools cannot. Funding for independent schools often comes under criticism from the Australian Education Union and the Australian Labor Party because, in addition to their fees, these schools also receive funding from both state and federal governments.

It is sometimes assumed, by parents or other observers, that attending a private school will guarantee achievement in later life, because of a perceived superiority, real or imagined.

Private school fees can vary from under $100 per month to $2000 and upwards, depending on the student's year level and the school's size. Private school uniforms tend to be more expensive than those for public schools, and more strictly enforced.


Both private and public universities can be found in Australia. As of 2006, there are 36 public, two Catholic and one non-profit private universities in Australia. Admissions by Australian citizens to public and Catholic universities in Australia are based on the prospective student's academic achievement. Admission to the private university, Bond University, is dependent on a student's ability to pay tuition fees as well as academic achievement and "one on one" interviews with admission officers (the only university in Australasia to do this for all students). Melbourne University Private was a whole university developed and owned by a public university to operate under this model.

Domestic students are not usually subject to upfront fees at a public university if enrolled in a Commonwealth Supported Place. As well as receiving substantial government subsidies to the cost of tertiary education, students in CSPs have the option of deferring their financial contributions to their education completely via the Commonwealth Supported Students scheme. Students may also enrol in a non-Commonwealth Supported Place, known as a FULL-FEE place, and must pay all upfront fees, which are typically greater than a standard Commonwealth Supported Students debt, usually undertaken to reduce academic entrance requirements. The national government provides funding for all universities in Australia.

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