Education in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT)

Education In The Australian Capital Territory

Education In The Australian Capital Territory The forth in our series of artices looking at Education in Australia covers the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).

Almost all educational institutions in the Australian Capital Territory are located within Canberra. The ACT public education system schooling is normally split up into Pre-School, Primary School (K-6), High School (7–10) and College (11–12) followed by studies at university or TAFE. Many private schools include years 11 and 12 and sometimes primary school as well.


In February 2004 there were 139 public and non-governmental schools in Canberra; 96 were operated by the Government and 43 were non-Government. Most suburbs are planned to include a primary school and schools are usually located near open areas for play and sports.

Children begin formal schooling at primary school in February when they are five or six. Primary school consists of seven grades: kindergarten and years 1 to 6. From years 7 to 10 children attend high school, generally a different institution to their primary education.

Students in years 11 to 12 attend college (except for private schools where most students stay on at school for year 11 and 12 some choose to go to state colleges) and normally study five to six courses over two years.

Certificates are awarded on the basis of continuous assessment of students’ progress at the end of years 10 and 12 by the ACT Department of Education and Training. Year 12 students wishing to pursue tertiary study must sit the ACT Scaling Test (AST) as part of a required Tertiary Entrance Statement.

The ACT Scaling Test is used to scale the results of schools relative to each other rather than affecting the marks of individuals directly. It is based on students’ general knowledge, critical and analytical skills. Traditionally students intending to pursue a trade have ended their schooling at the end of high school in order to take up an apprenticeship. In recent years it has become common for students with no tertiary education plans to continue through year 11 and 12 in an accredited scheme.

In 2005 there were 60,275 students in the ACT school system. 59.3% of the students were enrolled in government schools with the remaining 40.7% in non-government schools. There were 30,995 students in primary school, 19,211 in high school, 9,429 in College and a further 340 in special schools.

The ACT has the highest retention rate in Australia with 89% of the number of students who were enrolled in year 7 in 1999 were enrolled full-time in year 12 in 2004. This retention rate has declined from a peak in 1994 when the rate was nearly 5% more, probably because of poor job prospects for young people at that time compared with 2004.

During 2006 the ACT Government announced closures of up to 39 schools, to take effect from the end of the school year. After a series of consultations the Government announced its “Towards 2020: Renewing Our Schools”plan that closed ten schools at the end of 2006 with more in 2007 and 2008, while consolidating school campuses and opening other schools through to 2010.

The Government paid $750 ‘transitional funding’ to students whose schools have closed, provided they attended another government school, to facilitate provision of new school uniforms.

Home Education

The ACT government supports home education under the ACT Education Act 2004. In 2000 there were 100 registered home schooled students in the ACT, though there may have been up to another 400 students being home schooled but not registered with the government.

Tertiary institutions

As of May 2004, 30% of people in the ACT aged 15–64 had a level of educational attainment equal to at least an bachelor’s degree, significantly higher that the national average of 19%.

The two main tertiary institutions are the Australian National University (ANU) in Acton and the University of Canberra (UC) in Bruce.

The ANU was established as a research university in 1946, although expanded to include undergraduate teaching in 1960 it continues to have a strong research focus. The THES – QS World University Rankings in 2006, 2007 and 2008 ranked the ANU as being the 16th best university in the world. Both ANU and UC also have campuses interstate and overseas. There are also two religious university campuses in Canberra: Signadou in the North Canberra suburb of Watson is a campus of the Australian Catholic University; St Mark’s Theological College adjacent to the Parliament House is a campus of Charles Sturt University.

The Royal Military College, Duntroon (RMC) is in the suburb of Campbell in Canberra’s inner northeast. Duntroon provides Australian Army Officer training. The Australian Defence Force also runs the Australian Defence College with two campuses, the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) in Campbell and the other near Weston which provides education for senior members of the forces. ADFA teaches military undergraduates and postgraduates and is officially a campus of the University of New South Wales.

Tertiary level vocational education is also available through the multi-campus Canberra Institute of Technology. Learning Options is a Registered Training Organisation in Manuka offering a broad range of vocational qualifications in business, government, training & education, management and more.

The Academy of Interactive Entertainment (AIE) in Watson is a registered training organisation that offers tertiary courses in computer game development and 3D animation. Alliance College of Australia is a bible college of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. Unity College teaches Christian worship and ministry.

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