Ep 2: Australian Education System

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EPISODE 2 - Australian Education


Hi this is Tenielle from Study in Australia TV.

In our last episode we talked about Australian history, people, culture, the climate here, our beautiful environment and the Australian Government structure.

In this episode, Episode 2, we’ll give you an overview of the Australian Education system and why it’s so highly regarded worldwide.

So today we’ll cover topics like:

The types of Educational Institutions in Australia and how they fit together

An overview of the types of qualifications a student can study for

The Australian Qualifications Framework and why it’s so important for the Australian Education system

Common points at which international students and domestic Australian students commence their education in Australia and how these pathway options link to other study options


So let’s talk about the Australian Education System, beginning with Schools…

Each state government manages their own school system and provides the funding necessary for the schools to operate.

In each state there are both public schools, which are managed by the Education Department and private schools which are independently funded and managed.

The curriculum taught in each state or school may vary slightly but the learning outcomes are all same for each year level across Australia.

Schooling lasts for 13 years, children begin in preschool or kindergarten at 4 years of age, then at 5 start primary school until they reach Year 6.

In Year 7 they progress onto Middle School at Secondary or High School until Year 10 and then move onto Senior Secondary school to finish off Years 11 and 12.

In Year 12 students study specific subjects in preparation for University or Vocational Education Training Colleges, also known as VET, and sit exams at the end of the year to receive an Australian Tertiary Admissions Ranking (ATAR). This ATAR is assessed to qualify for entry into University or VET courses.

The Australian Curriculum not only teaches academic based learning it also aims to develop better communication skills, self-discipline and respect for others as well as a good appreciation of the world we live in.
Schools offer a broad curriculum in the key learning areas of English, Mathematics, Studies of Society and the Environment, Science, Arts, Languages Other Than English (LOTE), Technology, Health and Physical Education.

Schools also aim to develop a well rounded education that focuses on teamwork, self-expression and personal development for life outside the classroom.
The Australian School standards maintain a range of factors that include:
- small class sizes up to a maximum of 30 students in a class;
- University-trained and qualified teachers and specialist teachers in specific subject areas;
- School Facilities of a high standard, including a high level of technology based learning, with all schools having computers and internet access;
- Many schools have ‘gifted and talented’ programs to extend students who are high achievers;
- and also have ‘High Achievement’ programs for senior secondary students which can allow high achieving students the ability to extend themselves by studying university-level subjects;
- Individual learning programs are also available for students who require additional learning support;
- the Quality assurance frameworks ensure schools meet the required Australian standards so that all students can complete school with comparatively similar learning outcomes.
All Australian schools also offer a strong welfare structure to ensure the ongoing support of every student.
These include:
- International student coordinators present in every school;
- A student welfare team;
- Year advisers;
- School counsellors;
- Career advisers to assist students with planning and applying for post-secondary study;
- English as a second language support staff and programs;
- Accommodation in homestays for international students;
- Some schools also offer boarding house facilities.


After Year 12 students can progress onto University or a Vocational Education and Training, or VET, course.

So know we’ll talk a bit about Australia’s Vocational Education and Training system which I’ll refer to as VET..

Australia’s VET system prepares students for work in a career that does not generally need a university degree.

These careers might be as an Electrician, Plumber, Aged Care worker or working in Hospitality type jobs.

Australia’s VET sector is based on a partnership between the government and industry groups.
VET qualifications are provided by government institutions, called Technical and Further Education institutions known as TAFE, as well as private institutions.
Australian governments, federal and state, provide funding, develop policies, and contribute to regulation and quality assurance of the sector.
Industry and employer groups contribute to training policies and priorities to develop appropriate qualifications that deliver skills to the workforce.
The national regulatory body ASQA regulates and manages the VET system and ensures there are consistent national standards across the courses delivered.

Typically, a VET course takes up to two years of study and there is a strong practical component to enhance the learning outcomes.

Qualifications range across four levels of Certificates, Certificate I, II, III and IV, as well as Diploma and Advanced Diploma courses.

In the workplace employers also use agreed courses and learning outcomes to set standards of training for the various types of employment situations.

In addition many parts of industry and business provide ongoing workplace training for their employees.

So that covers the VET system so now we’ll move onto Higher Education or more simply the Australian University system…







The Australian federal government provides funding to the Public Universities in all the states and territories in Australia.

We have 38 Public Universities and 3 Private Universities in Australia.

Each university is independent in its own governance, which means the University is responsible for all aspects of daily operation and longer term strategic planning.

Universities can decide which courses they offer, the course content and how the course is structured within a specified framework.

This is overseen by a government agency called TEQSA.

TEQSA stands for Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency and is Australia's independent national quality assurance and regulatory agency for higher education.

TEQSA has a very important role in maintaining the quality and standards of Higher Education courses in Australia.

TEQSA does this by assessing courses against the Australian Qualifications Framework or AQF, which we’ll talk about in a minute.

Ok back to the University system.

Typically, a university undergraduate degree course or Bachelor’s degree takes between three to four years of study.

A Bachelor’s degree content or learning provides the basis for entry into many professional bodies and workplace associations for specific careers and can either be a single or double degree to incorporate a combination of specialisations.
Some Bachelor degrees offer an honours final year as preparation to postgraduate studies or for eligibility to a Professional Association like Engineering for instance.
It’s common for students to study double degrees these days as it gives students exposure to another discipline area so that when they’re in the work force they have a broader set of skills and understanding.
For instance a student could study a Bachelor of IT and Bachelor of Commerce and have the skills to work as an IT specialist but also know how to manage a budget and have some appreciation of running a business if they move into a management role.
Universities also teach Postgraduate and Research programs.
The typical Postgraduate coursework courses available in Australia are Graduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma and Masters by coursework.
A Graduate Certificate is a more specialised qualification than a Bachelor’s degree and is designed for people already working in their field or who have qualifications in that particular area and want to get more in-depth knowledge and advanced leadership skills.
A Graduate Certificate duration is normally 6 months fulltime.
A Graduate Diploma has a similar depth of knowledge to a Graduate Certificate but is perceived as a slightly higher qualification but in the same way is designed for people already working in their field.
A Graduate Diploma duration is normally 12 months fulltime.
Often a Graduate Certificate and Graduate Diploma are subsets of courses offered in the corresponding Masters program and students can apply for credit for the courses if they progress onto a Masters in the same discipline area.
Masters programs aim to develop expert, specialised cognitive and technical skills in a body of knowledge.
Students will independently analyse and critically assess and reflect on complex information, problems, concepts and theories.
A Master’s Degree is generally a coursework program but will often have a minor thesis dissertation in the final stage of the program that concentrates on a specialised area of the discipline.
A Master’s by coursework Degree duration is normally 2 years fulltime.
Universities also offer Research degrees where students research and explore a theory or unique and original topic of research.
They’re assigned an academic supervisor who is a nominated academic of the University.
It’s also common to have a second Co-Supervisor as well.
The student submits a Research Proposal and then works with the supervisor to develop the idea and test this against other expert knowledge and work in the field.
The Research culminates in a thesis or dissertation which is assessed by a group of peer academics in the field.
Students can either do a Masters by Research or a PhD also known as a Doctor of Philosophy.
A Masters degree by Research is a 2 year research program that generally proceeds onto a PhD.
A PhD research program duration is usually 4 years and is often a requirement for employment as a University academic, researcher or scientist in many fields.
Professional Doctoral degrees can also be a coursework and research mixed program designed for specialist knowledge and career advancement.
These programs are often a mix of academic learning with real world scenarios and case studies.
A Professional Doctoral degree is generally 3 years in duration.
So that’s Australia’s University system..

So now I’m going to talk about the Australian Qualifications Framework also known as the AQF.

Some of the information we’ve already covered in this episode is good background for you to understand how the AQF applies to the Australian Education system.

The Australian Qualifications Framework, or AQF, is a system of ten national qualifications in 3 educational sectors which include:
• Schools,
• Vocational Education and Training or VET which covers TAFE and other private institutions,
• and Higher Education which is mainly universities but also some private institutions

The AQF Qualifications are:
Certificate I
Certificate II
Certificate III
Certificate IV
Diploma
Advanced Diploma
Associate Degree
Bachelor Degree
Bachelor Degree with Honours
Graduate Certificate
Graduate Diploma
Masters Degree
PhD or Doctoral Degrees

A qualification normally offered in one sector may also be offered by an institution in another sector.

For example it possible for:
• a University to offer a Diploma,
• or some Vocational Colleges can offer Associate Degrees

These need to be approved by the respective regulatory body though to ensure the quality of teaching meets the national standard.

It’s also good to know that some courses are not always recorded on the AQF even though they offer excellent educational outcomes.

For example this includes:
• English language courses also known as ELICOS,
• and some foundation studies courses and qualifying programs.
These courses do not award a formal qualification as listed on the AQF, but are offered to allow students to progress onto another program.

Or for ELICOS as an example, improve the English language capability of students for either study or working in Australia.

So why is the AQF so important you might ask?

The AQF is important for 4 important reasons that include:
• the AQF provides a clear structure for the level of each qualification,
• it allows students to build their qualifications from lower to higher levels,
• it allows one educational institution to clearly understand the level of a qualification awarded by another institution and this can assist to provide appropriate credit or advanced standing for previous studies,
• it can also determine the student visa subclass that an international student receives when they study in Australia.

The AQF also helps to provide specific pathway programs for International Students for the education they have received in their home country.

As a result the AQF levels show how international students can progress through the Australian education system.

International students who arrive in Australia to study may begin at any level of the system depending on their previous studies.

However, their academic or English proficiency may not match the level that they wish to enter.

So, there are specific pathway programs for international students to be able to progress onto the level they want to study at.

These programs have a variety of titles but they all provide entry into another course of a higher level.

There are four types of pathway programs that are designed for and are popular with international students, these include:
PATHWAY PROGRAM PURPOSE
English language courses or ELICOS which is a pathway to all levels of qualifications on the AQF;

Foundation programs as a pathway to Undergraduate or Bachelor degree programs and VET courses;

Diploma programs as a pathway to Undergraduate or Bachelor degree programs;

Other Bridging Courses, for example Pre-Masters programs, as a pathway to other levels of qualifications on the AQF.

Private institutions in Australia can also offer Foundation or Pre-University preparatory courses for international students if they are not able to progress onto a Bachelor degree from Year 12 for example.

Foundation or Pre-University courses are about the same level as a VET Certificate IV, but depending on where the program is delivered and what the specific articulation is, the curriculum and course content may be different.
The Foundation or Pre-University programs are generally designed to prepare students for University Bachelor degree programs.
Foundation programs will:
contain academic based subjects,
focus on English language development,
prepare students for the academic expectations of University study,
have minimum entry requirements of successful completion of year 11, or equivalent, and a specific English language capability, usually IELTS score of 5.5 overall with certain band scores in reading, writing, listening and speaking,
be of a comparable academic standard to an Australian year 12 secondary school qualification,
be normally one academic year in duration,
often guarantee entry to a particular university course if the student meets the required standards or score on completion.

Some Foundation programs are offered for longer than 1 year and are usually called Extended Foundation programs.

The extra time is often focused on extra English language development and academic preparation for the next stage.

These Extended programs are for students who have a lower academic record and English level capability.

It’s also possible for some foundation programs to be completed in less than one year, these programs are normally called an ‘accelerated’ foundation program and are typically offered to students who have a higher academic record and English language capability.

Foundation programs are functionally the same as Australian Year 12 secondary school programs and provide for a similar level of academic work but students do not sit a public exam and receive an ATAR or Australian Tertiary Admissions Ranking.

Many Foundation programs have both international and domestic Australian students studying together.

The recognition of Foundation programs by Australian Universities can also vary.

Many universities guarantee entry to students undertaking their own endorsed Foundation program but will only recognise other Foundation programs on a case-by-case basis.
Generally, the Group of 8 endorsed Foundation programs are more widely accepted and are likely to provide entry into most Australian Universities.

The Group of 8 by the way are the top ranking Universities in Australia.

Alternatively, other institutional Foundation programs may have difficulty in providing students entry into the Group of 8 Universities.

As a student intending to take a Foundation program it’s important to understand
which universities or higher education providers accept the Foundation program you’re intending to study.

Now we’ll talk about Diploma programs..

International students often take Diploma courses principally as a pathway to an undergraduate Bachelor degree program rather than for the Diploma qualification itself.

Having said that it’s still good to have a Diploma Qualification on your CV if you’re looking for part time work while you’re still studying.

Business, Engineering or Information Technology Diploma courses tend to be the most popular fields of study but there are many other Diploma disciplines available.

These courses are offered by TAFE, private colleges and other higher education institutions providing entry to undergraduate programs and are often packaged with Bachelor degree courses for international students.

Typically, for example, a student who successfully completes a Diploma of Business will gain entry into the second year of an undergraduate Business degree of the same specialisation.

In this way, these courses provide a pathway into undergraduate degree programs for students who would otherwise not meet the entry requirements of the Bachelor degree program.

They are promoted as an alternative to Foundation programs and in many cases accept students from similar educational backgrounds.

In some cases, students can undertake a Foundation program in order to access a
Diploma program and then progress onto a Bachelor degree program.

This shows the flexibility and how well the Australian system is connected at different levels.

So you might ask how are Diploma programs different to Foundation programs?

Universities will generally offer credit to students who have completed a Diploma program.

Whereas Foundation programs are for entry only into the Bachelor degree.

For Diploma programs with a similar specialisation this usually means that students enter a Bachelor degree program in the second year.

As a result, Diploma programs are a popular pathway for international and domestic Australian students.

But for some Bachelor degree programs which are more competitive, like Medicine or Physiotherapy for instance, students are best advised to do a Foundation program.

Institutions that offer Diploma programs may also have a Foundation pathway available to students as well.

This gives the student options depending on the type of Bachelor degree program they intend to study.

Some Bachelor degree programs require a higher level of Maths, Chemistry or Physics as pre-requisite subjects.

So that’s an overview of pathway programs for both international and domestic students.

Now let’s discuss On-Shore and Off-Shore delivery of programs by Australian institutions..

Australian Diploma programs can be offered both in Australia, known as on-shore or off-shore in another country either through an off-shore Australian campus or a partnership with an institution delivering programs in that particular country.

This means that an Australian Diploma is offered by another provider overseas.

This overseas delivery is also monitored by the respective Australian regulatory body to ensure the educational standards are maintained.

Alternatively, an overseas accredited Diploma, delivered by an overseas institution that is not accredited by an Australian authority, can form a similar pathway to Bachelor degree programs.

For example, in many cases this overseas accredited Diploma can provide entry into the second year of a Bachelor degree program of a similar specialisation.

For example, these arrangements are particularly common with respect to Diplomas offered by colleges and polytechnics in Singapore and Malaysia.

Australian Universities often assess overseas Diplomas for entry into a Bachelor degree upon application.

Ok we’re getting close to the end of this Episode but I just want to quickly tell you about other Bridging courses that are available in Australia.

Australian institutions also offer a large number of bridging and short courses, which are different to Foundation or Diploma programs.

Some general features of bridging courses are:
they vary greatly in length from 5 weeks or more, but usually shorter in duration than Foundation or Diploma courses;
they are usually non-award, so not on the AQF;
they usually offer the attainment of specific skills, which are required by the
student in a subsequent course;
for example a single pre-requisite subject, which is necessary for further
study in a Diploma or Bachelor degree program;
they may provide an alternative means of improving English proficiency in an environment specific to a single discipline;
and they may provide entry to particular postgraduate courses like a Pre-Masters program can.

So that’s the end of Study in Australia TV Episode 2.

I hope you learnt a lot about the Australian Education system and understand why the AQF is so important for the quality of Australian Education.

Please let us know if you have any questions on this, or even if you have any feedback or simply just like the content.

Always happy to hear from you!

Bye for now!


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