Learning and International Schools in Australia: Where to Study Abroad

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An overview of education and international schools in Australia

If you’re planning to move to Australia, it might be worth knowing some things before you go there. For example, you can learn about the country’s educational system and international student population.

You’ll first need to decide whether you want your children to attend a public, private, or international school. The costs associated with these types of education vary widely.

If your child has finished primary school and wants to attend college, be ready to shell out a penny. For example, in 2018, the cost of attending an Australian university was $30,000 per year for undergraduates and $31,600 per year for postgraduates.

The Education System in Australia

What is Australia’s educational system like? The Australian educational system consists of three levels; primary school, secondary school, and tertiary/university level. Primary and secondary schools are compulsory. However, tertiary/university is not. In general, students progress through these stages until they reach the age of 18, after which they can choose whether to continue studying or move on to work.

After completing their compulsory schooling, students may opt for further studies at either a technical college or university. Technical colleges offer technical courses, whereas universities offer bachelor’s degree programs.

Education Facts in Australia

  • The Australian academic calendar begins in either late January or early February. It ends by mid-December.
  • Most universities offer 3–4 terms per year, lasting from 9–11 weeks each, with two weeks off between each semester.
  • School hours are usually between 9 am and 3 pm.
  • Lunch is generally eaten at school.
  • English is the official teaching language.

What is the School Systems Like?

Grading System in Australia

Schools in Australia

Depending on where and what side you live in the country, your children’s ages and school years will be similar.

Grade LevelAgeKindergarten3-5Prep/pre-primary5-6

Primary School

AgeGrades 1-3Grades 4-6Grades 7-9Grades 10-

Secondary School


There are main differences between public and private schools.

  • Independent private school students attend classes at their own time and place. Public school students attend classes at set times and locations.
  • Private schools are more costly than public schools and may cost up to $10,000 per annum. Public schools typically charge less than $1,000 per annum for tuition.
  • Private schools often require students to wear school uniforms, which can be more expensive than regular clothes. However, personal school uniform costs less than traditional clothing. For example, a pair of jeans at a private school can range from 100–200 AUD (70–140 USD), whereas a pair of jeans at an ordinary store can range from 300–500 AUD (210–350 USD).
  • Private schools usually offer better amenities than public schools. These include the library, laboratory, sports and gym, classroom, and music and art room.
  • Private schools usually have a smaller student-teacher ratio than public schools.
  • Private schools may not accept every student who wants to attend them, but public schools must admit everyone who lives within their boundaries.
  • Personal school admission requirements are more stringent than public school admission requirements.

Required documents for public schools include transcripts from high school and college; required documents for private.

Required documents for a private school can be as simple.

  • proof of address;
  • proof of your children’s ages;
  • The current level of education.

On the other side of the coin, public schools will additionally require

  • an interview;
  • admission exams and tests.

Public school students must adhere to state standards when it comes to coursework. Private school students can choose what classes they take based on their interests. For example, sending your child to a private Christian school may be a good idea if you’re interested in religion. However, religion is not part of the state-mandated public school curricula.

Daycare and Kindergarten

Early childcare facilities and preschool centers (known as kindergartens in some states) are excellent choices for young kids in Australia. The educational method used in these places is called “learning through play.” This helps kids develop their communication, social and physical abilities. Public and private institutions also offer classes based on individual child development theories, including Steiner, Montessorian, and Reggio-Emilia.



There are some of the most common options available for childcare in Australia include

  • Home-Based Caring — When a friend, babysitting service, relative, or nanny takes good of your children at your house.
  • Center-centered childcare—includes three types of centers: preschools/kindergarten nursery schools.
  • Family daycare — when an approved carer takes care of your children in their own homes.
  • Outside-of-hours care—center-based daycare for working mums and dads who need childcare before or during their working days.

Children under five years old are the leading target group for childcare services.


In some states, preschools are called kindergartens. They are the same, however. Unlike in some countries where preschool is divided into junior and senior preschool, Australia has no such division. So is preschool/kindergarten compulsory in Australia? No.

When do you start kindergarten/preschool?

Some schools require students to be at least four years old when they begin kindergarten. Others allow children as young as three to attend.

Childcare costs vary depending on where you live and whether you.

Depending on where you live, childcare and school expenses may be different. Here are some estimates.

A live-in nanny costs between $12-$17 an hour; a live-out nanny costs between $13-$18 an hour; daycare costs between $70-$190 per week; a preschool or kindergarten costs between $45-$80 per day; and a babysitter costs between $10-$25 an hour.

Ask other Australian parents who live abroad for advice.

Primary and Secondary Schools

Here are some Australian primary and secondary schools that are ranked among the top 10% nationally:

Top Primary Schools

  • Sydney Grammar School
  • Aloysius’ College
  • Bajool State School
  • Presbyterian Ladies’ College
  • Haileybury College

Top Secondary Schools

  • James Ruse Agricultural High School
  • North Sydney Boys High School
  • Baulkham Hills High School
  • Sydney Girls High School
  • Sydney Boys High School

Primary Schools in Australia

Kindergarten usually starts at age 5 or 6, and children in Australia typically go to primary schools until they’re aged 11 or 12 (Year 7 or 8). Primary schools focus on teaching children essential reading, writing, maths, and social skills, as well as giving them an understanding of the world around them.

Year 3 is when students start learning core subjects, including English, math, science, social studies, and physical education. A foreign language is also introduced at this time.

A typical schedule for kids in primary school might look something like this:

  • 9:00–11:00—classes
  • 11:00–11:30—recess
  • 11:30–13:30—classes
  • 13:30–14:30—lunch
  • 14:30–15:30—classes


Primary School Enrollment Requirements in Australia

The process for enroll­ing your child in primary schools varies from region to region. It is, therefore, best to contact your local education dept. Usually, though, primary school enrollment requires an application form and a fee.

  • student’s birth certificate, school records, and his
  • visa information;
  • Immunization and medical records.

Secondary Schools in Australia

In secondary schooling, subjects become much more specialized. They include English, Mathematics, Sciences, Geography, Civics, Economics, Humanitarianism, Business, Technology, Language, and Art. In addition, some high schools are split into two sections, one for senior high and another for junior high. Upon graduation, a student receives a Senior Secondary Certificate of Educational Achievement. After which, they may either continue onto tertiary/vocational training or work. For expatriate applicants wanting to enroll in secondary schooling, the exact requirements apply as those outlined above.

A typical timetable for students in secondary schools might look something like this:

  • 8:30–10:15—classes
  • 10:15–10:45—recess
  • 10:45–12:20—classes
  • 12:20–13:20—lunch
  • 13:20–15:00—classes

Applying to Higher Education

For students wishing to study at the university level in Australia, undergraduate admissions are determined by their Australian Tertiary Admission Ranking (ATAR), which is calculated by a state or territory admission center (TAC) and is usually derived from either a senior secondary certificate of education or international baccalaureate.

There are other ways to get into college besides applying directly through

an education qualification;

  • Interview, portfolio of work, prerequisite courses, and an expressed interest or demonstration of aptitude for the coursework;
  • For students aged 25 and older, relevant work experience, an entrance exam, or a proven ability for studying.


The Australian Certificate of Education (ACER) Scholarship Test is an exam given by schools across Australia to identify academically gifted children who may be eligible for a government-funded education program called the National School Chaplaincy Program.

There are also many other scholarships specifically for overseas and international applicants in Australia for all levels, from primary school to university.

Scholarship programs are available from the Public Education Foundation for students at all levels: primary, secon­dary, and tertiary.

Research and look into your state’s Department of Education because they often offer grants and scholarships for high school students too!

School Cost

A faith-based education in Australian schools costs $1,000 per year for each student.

Brisbane has a population of 1,890,000, making it the most populous city in Australia. It is followed by Sydney (2,935,000), Adelaide (1,715,000), Perth (1,600,000), Melbourne (3,400,000) and

For public schooling in Australia, the average cost for 13 years is AUD 68,727 (or 46,593 USD). For independent private schools, the median price is AUD 298,689 (or 202,493 USD).

For 2019, the total cost of the school, including tuition, uniform, field trips, etc., is $10,000 per year.

Public School

Primary—3,945 AUD (2,674 USD)

Secondary—5,045 AUD (3,419 USD)

Catholic School

Primary—5,581 AUD (3,783 USD)

Secondary—10,378 AUD (7,034 USD)

Private/Independent School

Primary—12,825 AUD (8,692 USD)

Secondary—24,105 AUD (16,340 USD)

International Schools

There are plenty of choices if you’re looking for the best international schools in Australia.

What are International Schools like in Australia?

International school students can often find themselves surrounded by people speaking various languages. These students are taught how to speak multiple languages to make the transition easier. In addition, students learn about the culture of the countries where they live and study abroad. These students also learn how to interact with others around them.

International schools are also helpful for expats who want to expose their children to different cultures and other expatriates. Some international schools also provide boarding facilities if this is something you’re interested in. However, you may need to spend even more money on this.

Depending on your children’s needs, you can choose between American, British, French, German, Japanese, or Australian schooling. Some countries offer both American and British curricula, others only one. In addition, there are international school options, such as the IB (International Baccalaureate) program. A complete listing of international school options in Australia can be found here.


Top International Schools in Sydney

  • International Grammar School
  • International French School of Australia
  • The German International School
  • Sydney Chinese School
  • Sydney Japanese International School

Top International Schools in Melbourne

  • Wesley College
  • Sophia Mundi Steiner School
  • Carey Baptist Grammar School
  • Sacred Heart College
  • Haileybury

Top international schools in Brisbane include St Paul’s Anglic.

  • Cairns State High School
  • Indooroopilly State High School
  • Mountain Creek State High School
  • Queensland Academy
  • Somerset College

Top International Schools in Perth

  • The Japanese School
  • International School of Western Australia
  • Treetops Montessori School
  • Scotch College
  • Helena College

Top International Schools in Adelaide

  • Adelaide International School
  • Glenunga International High School
  • Mercedes College
  • Loreto College
  • Our Saviour Lutheran School

Top International Schools on Gold Coast

  • Gold Coast International College
  • Shafston International College

Top International Schools in Newcastle

  • Newcastle Grammar School
  • Medowie Christian School

Top International Schools in Canberra

  • Telopea Park High School (French high school)
  • Melba Copland Secondary School
  • Narrabundah College
  • Red Hill Primary School
  • North Ainslie Primary School

An excellent place to start looking for accredited schools is the Council for International Schools. It is an international non-profit organization with more than 1,300 member schools in 116 different nations, which includes Australia.

International School Tuition Fees

International schools’ tuition varies from institution to institution. Therefore, contacting the specific institution of choice is best for accurate, up-to-date tuition rates.

Overall, expect to spend high amounts of money when sending your children to an international boarding/day/boarding (BDB) or day/boarding (DOB) primary or secondary public or independent private (IEP) elementary or middle/junior high (MSJH) or senior high (SHS) public or independent private (IP) high (HS) or vocational training (VET) institution.

Here are the annual tuitions fees for some of the universities mentioned above:

  • Telopea Park High School—about $250-$350
  • International French School of Melbourne—9,856–16,766 AUD (6,6
  • Glenunga International School — 630–690 AUD (426 – 467 USD) for residents and AUD 10,000 (6 764 USD) for non-residents

International School Requirements and Admission

Enrolling children in an international school requires a lot of planning. First, you must make sure that your child meets the minimum requirements set forth by the school before they will accept them. For example, some schools require an entrance exam, while others do not. Schools may also limit the number of applicants accepted each year. Your best bet is to contact the school directly and ask about their admission policies.

Higher Education

Top Universities in Australia

  • Australian National University (ANU)
  • University of Melbourne
  • University of Sydney
  • UNSW
  • University of Queensland (UQ)

Best Universities for International Students in Australia

Here are some of Australia’s best universities for international graduates who wish to remain in the nation after graduating.

  • UNSW
  • UQ
  • Monash University

Top universities, according to faculties.

  • Here are some suggestions for Australian universities based on their faculties.
  • Accounting and finance—UNSW
  • Architecture—University of Sydney
  • Art and design—RMIT University
  • Biological sciences—University of Melbourne
  • Business and management studies—University of Melbourne
  • University of Melbourne – Computer Science and IT
  • University of Melbourne – English Language and Literature
  • Hospitality and Leisure Management – Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School
  • Mathematics—ANU
  • Modern languages—University of Melbourne
  • Politics and international studies—ANU
  • Psychology—University of Melbourne
  • Sociology—ANU
  • Statistics and operational research—University of Melbourne


University Tuition Fees in Australia

How much does studying in Australia cost for an international student? Quite a lot. You should expect to spend a fortune as Australia is among the most expensive countries to live in. For internationals, living costs can be very high.

Why should you consider enrolling in a degree program at an Australian university?

Some of the best and most highly regarded universities in the world are in Australia. They have expertise in everything, including international affairs, STEM fields, and the humanities. Australian universities are also well known for allowing their students to get their hands dirty. This enables international students pursuing full degrees to dig deep and carry out their research (aspiring scientists, we’re looking at you!).

What’s not to love about pursuing a degree program with universities in Australia? Aside from outstanding academics, they also offer vibrant student life activities, stunning campuses, and some of the world’s most colorful and diverse cities to live in.

Top International Universities in Australia

Australian universities are included as the best in the world, and as a result, they are highly ranked (and occasionally extremely competitive). Check out a few of the most well-liked Australian universities for domestic and international students; perhaps one will catch your eye.

University of Melbourne

The University of Melbourne, one of the oldest universities in Australia and located in the country’s second-largest city, can count four Australian prime ministers among its alums and faculty members, in addition to nine Nobel Prize winners. The University of Melbourne prides itself on being a research-heavy institution, with academics primarily focusing on science, medicine, and law. It should be no surprise and not shocking that it’s one of the top universities in Australia. It is also located in Melbourne, a city renowned for its vibrant music and art scenes, as well as its thriving food scene.

University of Sydney

The University of Sydney, one of the top universities worldwide, can provide international students with an authentic Australian experience, including panoramic views of its famous opera house, the largest natural harbor in the world, and a competitive university that resembles a sunnier version of Hogwarts. Students who want to study medicine, the sciences, literature, and the arts should choose this university. What more could you need?

University of Queensland

The University of Queensland has situated a short distance from lovely beaches in Brisbane, a frequently overlooked city that is located in the Brisbane River. The University of Queensland, primarily known for its excellent engineering, psychology, and research science programs, is the ideal university for international students who want to live like locals in a major Australian city but avoid all of the tourist traps of some of Australia’s more well-known locations. As one of Australia’s top universities, it is renowned for its affordability.

University of Adelaide

Adelaide is a coastal city, and its beaches and Mediterranean-type climate are just a few reasons international students choose it as their home away from home. The University of Adelaide, like many of the top-ranked universities in Australia, is known for its research programs, especially in the fields of engineering, computer science, and other sciences – with a particular emphasis on food, agriculture, and wine.

University of Western Australia

Adelaide is a coastal city, and its beaches and Mediterranean-type climate are just a few reasons international students choose it as their home away from home. The University of Adelaide, like many of the top-ranked universities in Australia, is known for its research programs, especially in the fields of engineering, computer science, and other sciences – with a particular emphasis on food, agriculture, and wine.