While still one of the world’s strongest economies and an educational benchmark around the globe, Australia is working to balance high investments in primary and secondary schools along with a higher education funding reform.
COUNTRY NAME Australia CAPITAL Canberra MEDIAN AGE 38.71
LANGUAGE English POPULATION 23,232,413 (July 2017 est.) BIGGEST INDUSTRIES Accommodation and food services (45% of young workers 15-24 years old), Construction (9% of Australian workforce), Retail Trade (32% of young workers 15-24 years old)2
CURRENCY Australian Dollar GENDER 50.1% male, 49.9% female
Amazing Culture, Rich History, Pulsating Economy
From historical indigenous music to rock n’ roll superstars AC/DC; from 30,000-year-old Aboriginal art to the modern landscape of Sydney; from 104°F in January to 32°F in July, Australia is a country made up of a diverse culture and rich heritage. Naturally, thousands of tourists and individuals visit it each year in search of jobs and/or educational opportunities. It doesn’t come as a surprise, considering Australia is the second country in the world’s Human Development Index20 and 14th in global economy21.
Most of Australia’s geography consists of an arid desert. However, despite this, it is incredibly biodiverse. It’s not all kangaroos, koalas, and wombats, as most of us might think. With alpine forests, tropical rainforests and a wide variety of plants and animals, Australia is also known for having the greatest number of reptile species in the world, from venomous snakes to dangerous creatures like crocodiles.22
Primary and Secondary Education: a Guarantee for All Aussie Students
The Australian Government is investing heavily into primary and secondary school education. Starting 2018, the Quality Schools package will be leading school funding to record levels. The total investment will reach US$ 196.46 billion in recurrent school funding over the next ten years.23,24
All investment is set to fund an educational system where school attendance is compulsory between the ages of 5 to 16, with slight age variations depending on the state or territory where the student resides. Schools are classified as either government or non-government. Each state or territory is responsible for government-funded schools through a Director-General (or equivalent) of education that works to guarantee that all students receive the best education possible. These schools receive their basic funding from their own state or territory government.
Private schools are considered ‘non-government.’ However, they operate under conditions determined by state and territory government regulatory bodies and also receive Australian and state or territory government funding.
Primary school starts with a preparatory or kindergarten year (pre-year 1), followed by six or seven year/grade levels. The main emphasis in early primary school is on the development of basic language and literacy skills, simple arithmetic, moral values and social education, health training and personal development, and some creative activities. Later on, the focus is on developing skills in English, mathematics, social studies, science, music appreciation, arts and crafts, physical education and health. As optional subjects, students can choose to study such themes as religious instruction, foreign and community languages, and specific music courses.
A further five to six years of study are required in order to complete a school diploma, – this is where secondary school begins for students. Overall, the first two years of secondary school consist of a general program, and the middle years consist of basic core subjects along with additional optional classes.
More often than not, primary and secondary schools are separate institutions in Australia, although there is a growing trend, particularly in independent schools, towards combined efforts.25
Higher Education: Australia’s Struggle to Maintain its World-Class Level in Education
With six universities in the World Top 100 Ranking, Australia is one of the strongest countries in Oceania and Asia – and also a global force – when it comes to higher education. Currently, much of the funding provided by the Australian government is directed at teaching and learning (T&L) in higher education through a range of initiatives.
Government funding covers from infrastructure to student support, including increasing access for all and improving the quality of education. Most of the funding is administered under the Higher Education Support Act (HESA) 2003, with measures that include the Commonwealth Grant Scheme (CGS), which provides funding to higher education providers to help subsidize student tuition costs, the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP), which provides income contingent loans to help students meet their study costs, and Commonwealth Scholarships, to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students with costs associated with higher education.26
The most popular fields of study among domestic students are humanities and commerce, with health and science enrolments rapidly increasing among young Australian student preferences. Among the 390,000 international students in the country, most take commerce-related courses.
“Although Australian universities have increased their private income since the 1980s, they still rely on government. Nearly 60 per cent of their cash flow is government grants or loans,” reveals the Mapping Australia Higher Education 2016 report by Grattan Institute.27
Despite the efforts, the local government is struggling to maintain the country’s world-class education quality. A proposed higher education reform package is currently being discussed in the Senate, since the Australian government argues there is a need to ensure future funding arrangements remain sustainable.
Education is the third largest export industry in the country, with higher education being a key element. In 2016, it was valued at US$ 17.13 billion. Since 2009, funding has increased by 71%, twice the rate of economic growth in the same period.
While the average government funding for universities increased by 15% per student between 2010 and 2015, the cost for universities to deliver courses increased by only 9.5% over the same period, according a Deloitte study28. The idea is that the government’s new higher education policy will make Commonwealth support better targeted, making sure taxpayers’ money is well spent and students make informed decisions when it comes to their studies.
Vocational and Further Education Make up an Important Sector in the Country
Vocational Education and Training (VET) and Technical and Further Education (TAFE) are also important sectors in Australia. They are often designed to deliver specific workplace skills. Some of the most popular courses in the country are apprenticeships, arts training, the Australian Film Television and Radio School, general practices, indigenous advancement support, among others.29
Science and Technology Jobs Becoming Scarce in the Country
Science and technology jobs are becoming increasingly difficult to find in Australia. This issue has been brought to light at a moment when finding any job post-higher education is becoming harder in general. Grattan Institute’s most recent published report showed that many recent Science and Information Technology graduates are failing to find full-time work at a time when science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education is a priority for Australia’s government and industry development.
The research also showed that in 2015, only half of all Bachelor of Science graduates looking for full-time work found employment opportunities within four months upon graduation, 17 percentage points below the graduate average. Among recent Science graduates who found full-time jobs, only half say their qualification is required or important for their job – about 20 percentage points below the average.
5 Highlights of Education in Australia
1. Australia has six universities in the World’s Top 100 Ranking
2. The country is investing over US$ 196.46 billion in primary and secondary education over the next 10 years
3. More than 390,000 international students choose Australia as a higher education destination
4. Women make up 55.4% of all higher education students in the country
5. The government has been making cuts in higher education funding. Currently, the Senate is discussing an education reform package that may impact higher education funding in the upcoming years.31
Infographic: TRiiBU Studio
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17 M. (2016, January 19). How Singapore’s six public universities differ. Retrieved November 23, 2017, from http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/education/how-singapores-six-public-universities-differ. 18 Research and development expenditure (% of GDP). (n.d.). Retrieved November 29, 2017, from https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/GB.XPD.RSDV.GD.ZS?locations=AU-IN-JP-NZ-SG. 19 Government expenditure on education, total (% of GDP). (n.d.). Retrieved November 29, 2017, from https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SE.XPD.TOTL.GD.ZS?locations=AU-NZ-JP-SG-IN. 20 Key to HDI countries and ranks, 2015[PDF]. (2016). UNITED NATIONS DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME. Retrieved February 26, 2018, from http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/rankings.pdf. 21 Gross domestic product 2016[PDF]. (2016). The World Bank. Retrieved from http://databank.worldbank.org/data/download/GDP.pdf on February 26, 2018. 22 Briney, A. (n.d.). Geography of Australia – History, Government, Climate. Retrieved March 13, 2018, from https://www.thoughtco.com/geography-of-australia-1434351 23 Department of Education and Training, Australian Government. (n.d.). Quality Schools. Retrieved February 26, 2018, from https://www.education.gov.au/quality-schools. 24 Department of Education and Training, Australian Government. (n.d.). School funding. Retrieved February 26, 2018, from https://www.education.gov.au/funding-schools. 25 Chapter – Primary and secondary education. (n.d.). Retrieved February 26, 2018, from http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/[email protected]/0/93EB4563583425CCCA25773700169C91?opendocument. 26 Department of Education and Training, Australian Government. (n.d.). Funding. Retrieved February 26, 2018, from https://www.education.gov.au/funding. 27 Norton, A., & Cakitaki, B. (2016). Mapping Australian higher education 2016. Carlton: Grattan Institute. 28 Department of Education and Training. (n.d.). Higher Education Reform Package – Student Overview. Retrieved March 20, 2018, from https://www.education.gov.au/higher-education-reform-package-student-overview 29 “Australia.” Education Training, vol. 50, no. 6, Dec. 2008, doi:10.1108/et.2008.00450fab.001. 30 2016 FULL YEAR HIGHER EDUCATION STATISTICS[PDF]. (2016). Department of Education and Training, Australian Government. Retrieved on February 26,2018 from https://docs.education.gov.au/system/files/doc/other/2016_student_summary_infographic.pdf. 31 Almost 10,000 student places unfunded as uni offer. (n.d.). Retrieved February 26, 2018, from https://www.universitiesaustralia.edu.au/Media-and-Events/media-releases/Almost-10-000-student-places-unfunded-as-uni-offers-go-out#.WpTHHqinHIV.