SYDNEY, Australia — Education in Australia begins at the age of five or six and is mandatory up to the age of 16. The system is divided into three parts: primary, secondary and senior secondary school. Primary runs from kindergarten to year six or seven while secondary continues from seven to ten. The senior secondary school includes the final two years, 11 and 12. Education beyond is called tertiary and involves both universities and vocational training.
The different types of schools available are governmental, non-governmental or religious schools such as Catholic or Islamic and Montessori or Steiner schools, the basis of which is educational philosophies. “All schools must be registered with the state or territory education department and are subject to government requirements in terms of infrastructure and teacher registration,” says the Australian government’s website.
The guidepost for education in Australia is the Australian Qualifications Framework. Established in 1995, the AQF is designed to regulate the qualifications of the Australian education and training system. According to the AQF website, it “incorporates the quality assured qualifications from each education and training sector into a single comprehensive national qualifications framework.”
The Australian government outlines what makes their schools stand out from other nations on their website, citing several reasons for their excellence. A few of these include a maximum of 30 students per classroom, teachers who have graduated from and been trained at a university, high-level technology, internet access and programs such as ‘Gifted’ and ‘High Achievement’ that seek to make every child’s experience the most beneficial and preparatory as possible.
Educators in Australia strive to produce “independent and successful thinkers, confident and creative individuals and active and informed citizens.” This is achieved through a variety of teaching methods that do not only involve the instructors. While they are trained in a number of methods in the effort to reach every student, they are also given tools to encourage student participation. Through presentations, e-learning and classrooms with sustained interaction, the education system in Australia cultivates not only knowledgeable citizens but personable and well-rounded adults.
Diving deeper into what it means to run a quality educational program, the National Safe Schools Framework “provides school communities with a vision, a set of guiding principles and the practical tools and resources that will help build a positive school culture”. The Framework acknowledges that an incredibly important part of education is beyond the knowledge of numbers and vocabulary words. It relies heavily on the environment in which a student learns the numbers and words.
By affirming the rights of all members to feel safe, the Framework serves as a guiding principle for individual schools to ensure their students have a positive experience and are taught to appreciate each other’s differences. It also encourages community members to get involved “in developing and maintaining a safe school community where diversity is valued”.
This philosophy likely plays a part in the economic surge Australia has maintained despite the many global financial crises the world has gone through in the last 25 years. The New York Times cites the country’s policy toward large-scale immigration as the reason for this feat. Though it is not without flaw, their largely open acceptance of immigrants could be linked to the appreciation for diversity taught in schools.
The education in Australia and its immigration policy has the potential to influence the perspective of major world powers in a time of great refugee crisis.
George Megalogenis of the New York Times writes, “We have a valuable lesson to share with the world: Immigration fosters resilience.” This resilience begins with an appreciation for diversity in the classroom.
– Rebecca Causey