The seventh in our series of articles looking at education in Australia focuses on the Australian State of Victoria
Pre-school in Victoria
Pre-school in Victoria is relatively unregulated and not compulsory. The first exposure many Australian children have to learn with others outside of traditional parenting is day care or a parent-run playgroup. This sort of activity is not generally considered schooling. Pre-school education is separate from primary school.
Pre-schools are usually run by local councils, community groups or private organizations. Pre-school is offered to three to five year olds. Attendance in pre-school is 93% in Victoria. The year before a child is due to attend primary school is the main year for pre-school education. This year is far more commonly attended, and usually takes the form of a few hours of activity five days a week.
Primary schools in Victoria
Primary education consists of seven grades: a Preparatory year (commonly called “Prep”) followed by Years 1 to 6. The minimum age at which a Victorian child can commence primary school education is 4.8 years. That is, the child can enroll in a school at the preparatory level if he or she would be five years of age by 30 April of that year. A Victorian child must commence education by age six.
Secondary schools in Victoria
Secondary schools (also called high schools or secondary colleges) consist of Years 7 to 12. Secondary schools are usually separate institutions to primary schools, although in recent years, the number of combined primary and secondary schools has increased.
At time of typing there are five selective public schools in Melbourne (entry based on examination/audition): Melbourne High School, MacRoberston Girls’ High School, Nossal High School, John Monash Science School and the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School, but all public schools may restrict entry to students living in their regional ‘zone’.
School Curriculum in Victoria
The curriculum for all Victorian schools, government and non-governments, from Preparatory year to Year 12 is determined by the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA). Between prep and Year 10 the Victorian Essential Learning Standards (VELS) framework and Achievement Improvement Monitor (AIM) certificates apply. For Years 11 to 12 the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) program and Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) apply.
Assessment for students in Victoria
Students in Years 11 to 12, whether in government or non-government schools, normally are assessed for the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE). The curriculum and assessment is determined by the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) and the final ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank) score, used for advancement to tertiary education, is determined by the Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre (VTAC). Year 11 and 12 students may study under the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) or International Baccalaureate programs in place of the VCE.
Literacy and numeracy skills of Victorian school students are monitored by the Achievement Improvement Monitor (AIM) program. Each student’s skills are assessed at Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 levels.
Providers of education in Victoria
Government or state schools
Mebourne High is one of five selective secondary schools in VictoriaThe state government owns and operates schools at both primary and secondary levels. These schools are generally called government or state schools. They do not charge compulsory fees, with the majority of their costs being met by the government, and the rest by voluntary levies and by fund raising.
Two government secondary schools are selective: Melbourne High School, catering for boys, and Mac.Robertson Girls’ High School, catering for girls. These offer classes from Years 9 to 12 and cater for academically gifted students. There are also schools which specialise in performing arts and sports.
The remainder are open schools which accept all students from the government-defined catchment areas. Selective schools are more prestigious than open government schools, and, as one would expect, generally achieve better results in the school-leaving exams than independent or open government schools. Entrance to selective schools is by examination and they cater to a large geographical area.
According to the Schools Australia Preliminary Report, released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on 4 February 2008, the number of students enrolled in Victorian state schools was 535,883 in 2007 — a drop of 234 students on the 2006 figures, while the non-government sector stood at 297,970 in 2007 – a gain of 4,252 students. The non-government sector, which includes Catholic, private and Jewish schools, recorded steady growth since 2002, gaining more than 16,890 students in the past five years.
However, while government schools recorded a fall in student numbers in the past two years, the sector recorded growth between 2002 and 2005, and in the past five years recorded an overall gain of 2,466 students.
Despite a five-year growth in the numbers of students attending government schools, the number of Victorian government schools fell to 1,592 in 2007, down from 1,605 in 2006 and 1,613 in 2005. The number of independent schools rose from 210 in 2006 to 214 in 2007.
As at 3 August 2007, teacher-student ratios were higher in the Victorian government sector, at 13.8, compared with 12.9 in the non-government sector. However, in both sectors Victoria compared favourably with national figures: the national teacher-student ratio in government schools was higher at 14.2, and 13.8 in the non-government sector.
There was a rise in the number of teaching staff in Victoria, up from 68,697 in 2006 to 70,342 in 2007.
Non-government schools in Victoria
The Littlejohn Memorial Chapel at Scotch College, the oldest secondary school in MelbourneMost Catholic schools are either run by their local parish and/or by the state’s Catholic Education Department.
Non-Catholic non-government schools (often called “Independent” schools) include schools operated by religious groups and secular educational philosophies such as Montessori.
Some independent schools charge high fees. Government funding for independent schools often comes under criticism from the Australian Education Union and the Australian Labor Party.
Although non-tertiary public education is free, 35% of students attend a private primary or secondary school. The most numerous private schools are Catholic, and the rest are independent (see Public and Private Education in Australia).
Tertiary institutions in Victoria
Ormond College (1879), University of Melbourne
Queen’s College, University of MelbourneMelbourne is the home of the University of Melbourne and Monash University, the largest university in Australia. Melbourne University is the oldest university in Victoria and the second-oldest university in Australia. It is ranked second among Australian universities in the 2006 THES international rankings.
The Times Higher Education Supplement ranked the University of Melbourne as the 36th best university in the world, Monash University was ranked the 38th best university in the world.
Both universities are members of the Group of Eight. Other universities located in Melbourne include La Trobe University, RMIT University, Swinburne University of Technology, based in the inner city Melbourne suburb of Hawthorn, Victoria University, which has nine campuses across Melbourne’s western region, including three in the heart of Melbourne’s Central Business District (CBD) and another four within ten kilometres of the CBD, and the St Patrick’s campus of the Australian Catholic University.
Deakin University maintains two major campuses in Melbourne and Geelong, and is the third largest university in Victoria. In recent years, the number of international students at Melbourne’s universities has risen rapidly, a result of an increasing number of places being made available to full fee paying students.
The classification of tertiary qualifications in Victoria is governed in part by the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF), which attempts to integrate into a single national classification all levels of tertiary education (both vocational and higher education), from trade certificates to higher doctorates.
However, as Universities in Australia (and a few similar higher education institutions) largely regulate their own courses, the primary usage of AQF is for vocational education. However in recent years there have been some informal moves towards standardization between higher education institutions.
The city of Melbourne was ranked the world’s fourth top university city in 2008 after London, Boston and Tokyo.
Technical and Further Education (TAFE) in Victoria
Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institutes are state-administered. TAFE institutions generally offer short courses, Certificates I, II, III, and IV, Diplomas, and Advanced Diplomas in a wide range of vocational topics. They also sometimes offer Higher Education courses.
Six TAFE institutes are located in Melbourne: the Box Hill Institute, Holmesglen Institute, Chisholm Institute, Kangan Institute, NMIT and William Angliss Institute
In addition to TAFE institutes, there are approximately 1100 privately operated Registered Training Organisations (RTOs). They include:
- commercial training providers,
- the training department of manufacturing or service enterprises,
- the training function of employer or employee organisations in a particular industry,
- Group Training Companies,
- community learning centres and neighbourhood houses,
- secondary colleges providing VET programs.
In size these RTOs vary from single-person operations delivering training and assessment in a narrow specialisation, to large organisations offering a wide range of programs. Many of them receive government funding to deliver programs to apprentices or trainees, to disadvantaged groups, or in fields which governments see as priority areas.
All TAFE institutes and private RTOs are required to maintain compliance with a set of national standards called the Australian Quality Training Framework (AQTF), and this compliance is monitored by regular internal and external audits.
Vocational education and training (VET) VET programs delivered by TAFE Institutes and private RTOs are based on nationally registered qualifications, derived from either endorsed sets of competency standards known as Training Packages, or from courses accredited by state/territory government authorities. These qualifications are regularly reviewed and updated. In specialised areas where no publicly owned qualifications exist, an RTO may develop its own course and have it accredited as a privately owned program, subject to the same rules as those that are publicly owned.
All trainers and assessors delivering VET programs are required to hold a qualification known as the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (TAA40104) or demonstrate equivalent competency. They are also required to have relevant vocational competencies, at least to the level being delivered or assessed.
Other educational facilities in Victoria
The Centre for Adult Education (previously known as the Council of Adult Education) provides a wide range of accredited adult education courses, with a strong focus in arts, languages and adult secondary education.
Other options include business, computers, human services, languages, wellbeing, fitness and literacy. (CAE website) CAE receives state government funding. CAE’s objective is to deliver courses designed to help adults complete their secondary education and begin or change their career direction.