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What it’s like to attend Primary School in Australia

2020-03-13 18:04:25
The Australian education system is touted to be one of the best in the world. It’s labour force is one of the most educated in the world and produces some of the finest scientists and scholars around the world. They all probably have one thing in common, undergoing the Australian education system. Here’s an insight into the system

Australia Education System

The Australian education system offers primary, secondary and tertiary education linked all across the country and the world.


School education is similar across all of Australia with only minor variations between states and territories. School education (primary and secondary) is compulsory between the ages of six and sixteen (Year 1 to Year 9 or 10). School education is 13 years and divided into:


· Primary school - Runs for seven or eight years, starting at Kindergarten/Preparatory through to Year 6 or 7.

· Secondary school - Runs for three or four years, from Years 7 to 10 or 8 to 10.

· Senior secondary school - Runs for two years, Years 11 and 12



English is the official language of Australia and the main language of instruction in the education system. Many schools offer bilingual programs or programs in other languages.


Academic Year

The school year starts at the end of January and it finishes in mid-December. It is divided into two semesters and both semesters are divided into two terms. Each term is about ten weeks long, followed by two weeks of holidays



There are seven years of primary school – grade ‘Prep’ (preparatory year) to grade six. It’s not unusual for students to attend the same school for the entirety of their academic careers.


Classes are based around eight themes:


· English

· Health and physical education

· Languages other than English

· Maths

· Science

· Society and environment

· Technology

· Arts


Besides these subjects, students are also taught music, swimming (compulsory two weeks a year), dancing and gymnastics.


Religious education is also offered at relevant schools. Children who have recently arrived in Australia may be eligible for classes in English as an Additional Language external link (EAL) within their school.



In their first year of school, students learn through teaching interactions with others, experimentation, practice and play in the classroom and school community. Priority is given to literacy and numeracy development as these are the foundations upon which further learning is built. Opportunities to develop literacy and numeracy are found in all subjects but particularly in English and Mathematics. Learning in a classroom and belonging to a school community is key to the first year at school.


In their year 1 and 2, priority is given to the important areas of literacy and numeracy development. English and Mathematics are the core subjects for this, however, literacy and numeracy are found in all subjects. By the end of Year 2, students have a much stronger understanding of themselves and have begun to connect with the wider community


In Years 3 and 4, students become more independent; they communicate with others more effectively. English and Mathematics continue to be a priority, and literacy and numeracy are developed across all learning areas. The curriculum further builds the essential knowledge and skills in literacy, consolidating ‘learning to read and write’.


In Years 5 and 6, students develop an ability to take positive actions for their well being; they relate to others and communicate well with others; they ask challenging questions and seek answers; they make informed decisions and act responsibly. The development of information and communication technology skills increases across the curriculum at this level.



In the Australian Curriculum, the general capabilities are also addressed through the content of the learning areas and are identified where they offer opportunities to add depth and richness to student learning.


The seven general capabilities include:


· Literacy capability

· Numeracy capability

· Information and Communication Technology capability

· Critical and Creative Thinking capability

· Personal and Social capability

· Ethical understanding capability

· Intercultural understanding capability.


Teachers are expected to teach and assess general capabilities to the extent that they are incorporated within learning area content. State and territory education authorities will determine if and how student learning of the general capabilities is to be further assessed or reported.



Starting in primary school, children are graded on the standard Australian academic scale. This is a percentage-based system and looks a bit different from the grade systems typically used in the US and the UK. The following scale is the most typical, however, each Australian state can and does employ its unique grading system.



In Australia, the average primary school class size is about 20 to 28. The school day typically runs from 8.30 am until 3.30 pm. Written homework is not often given to children in primary school, normally teachers suggest to use any spare time to read. Occasionally children are encouraged to do research related to the observation and investigation of their environment.


There are no formal exams for primary school kids in Australia, but students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 will participate in the annual NAPLAN tests in reading, writing, language conventions (spelling, grammar and punctuation) and numeracy. NAPLAN is just one aspect of a school’s assessment and reporting process. These tests have no bearing on future schooling - it mainly provides schools, education authorities and governments with information about how education programs are working and whether young Australians are achieving important educational outcomes in literacy and numeracy


Australia is gradually transiting from the current paper-based NAPLAN to NAPLAN Online to provide a better and more precise assessment that is more engaging for students.



Technology in classrooms is also quite common these days. Most schools use technology to conduct interactive-based learning whereby students learn through interactive boards or electronic devices like iPads which are used by students daily.


 Maths and English exercises are often done using online platforms (eg. Spellodrome, Mathletics). Communication between teachers and parents are also often done online. Apps like ClassDojo show weekly activities, projects and students progress. Coding (computer programming) has been introduced in many schools.


A student with a disability that severely limits their capacity to participate in the assessment, or a student who has recently arrived in Australia and has a non-English speaking background, may be granted a formal exemption.


Public versus Private

Public schools in Australia are free for all Australian residents, and textbooks are provided for children. It’s not uncommon for students to wear uniforms, which the parents are typically responsible for purchasing.


Private schools, however, are a different story. Notoriously on the pricey side, parents can expect to pay anywhere from A$23,000 - A$37,000 for a single year of day-school. Those fees are significantly higher for students attending boarding school, which may be necessary if you’re moving to a more remote region of a continent.