School selection in Australia.

School selection in Australia.

School choice is key issue of Australian education. Australian choose between public and private schools at a higher rate than other OECD countries. In 2017 29.8% of Australian primary and 40.6% secondary students were enrolled in private schools, compared to OECD averages of 11.5% primary and 17.8% secondary students in private schools.

Choosing based on school performance

The MySchool website was created by the Federal Government to help families make better choices about schools by providing several aspects of school information, the main of which being data about how each school is performing in comparison to others. School performance is shown using National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) results. NAPLAN is a controversial federal programme that measures school performance even though state’s have the authority and responsibility of school education.

Private schools do traditionally perform better for obvious reasons such as having greater resources and more teachers relative to pupil numbers. However, it may not always be the case. Do your own research on the performance of schools in NAPLAN and then in year 12 results to then consider whether the private school is worth the money. One can see the year 12 performance of schools on state government education websites and also often find the comparison on state specific news websites. In Australia, private schools can get very expensive. Independent and Protestant schools can now be in excess of $35,000 for day students in the most prestigious high schools in Sydney and Melbourne. In the cheaper Australian capitals, secondary school may cost around the $20,000 mark. Catholic schools and non-affiliated schools are quite a lot cheaper and often only around the $10,000 but rising to $20,000 for the most prestigious Catholic schools.

In Australian states, normal (there are exceptions) public schools have geographical districts. These schools will not accept pupils if they are out of the bounds of these districts. For this reason, an Australian property researcher group estimated that house prices increase by nearly A$20,000 for every 1% increase in the proportion of top-ranked secondary students in local schools.

Selective schools

Those exceptions I was talking about are normally selective schools. They are public schools that require entry test performance to attend. Consistently and around the country, selective schools are often the best performing public schools. This means they are very desirable for a lot of parents. For example, NSW has more than 45 selective schools with only (approx.) 4000 available places. 14,000 year 6 students sat the 2018 entry test, meaning competition is fierce!

There is a strong language component to selective school culture in Australia. Families from language backgrounds other than English constitute 83% of enrolments in NSW selective schools. Selective schools in many states have a better variety of languages taught at the school, are considered to teach languages better and may have languages that are less frequently taught in Australia.


The most commonly taught languages in Australian schools are Japanese, Italian, Indonesian, French, German and Mandarin. The federal curriculum through ‘The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA)’ released the Australian Curriculum: Languages, and then again in 2016, a guide to language instruction that each state is now in the process of implementing. The federal curriculum includes 14 languages: Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Modern Greek, Spanish and Vietnamese. However, this is merely the federal curriculum, each state is different. Each state may not offer all of the above and may offer some other languages.

Despite having one of the most multicultural societies on the planet, secondary language education is becoming less significant with the number of Year 12 students studying a second language decreasing in the past 50 years from 40 per cent to 12 per cent. Victoria is so far the only state to make language learning mandatory from prep to Year 10. In Western Australia less than half of public schools offer programs to learn a second language.

When children start primary school, parents after extensive language education for their children may be able to chose from a small number of bilingual schools around the country. These include Japanese, Italian, Armenian, French and German schools in Sydney and Vietnamese, Chinese, German and Italian schools in Melbourne. In South Australia, the first bilingual school opened in 2016, teaching 50% of the classes in Mandarin. For many, bilingual schooling isn’t an option but government funded programmes offer extra language learning such as Greek schooling in both South Australia and Victoria, which are taught by the Greek Orthodox Church in both states.

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