The Australian education system is quite unique; being a strange hybrid of other systems. It's neither British nor American as one might at first suspect.

Primary Education

Students begin with primary school from the age of about 5 or 6, for a period of six years. There are both private and public primary schools. The private ones are quite expensive, it's usual to pay between A$1500 and A$5000 for these. Public schools tend to be coeducational, whereas private schools are usually not. Primary education is compulsory. Typical primary schools have 150 to 300 students. Catholic schools form a "middle ground" between private and public schools. Public schools usually have a uniform, but it's pretty casual and not too heavily enforced. Private schools have uniforms that are strictly enforced. Primary school is referred to as Years 1 to 6. In some states "kindergarten" or "prep" -- a year before year 1 -- is considered compulsory.

Secondary education

Unlike the United States, there is no "junior high" in Australia, there's just "high school", which goes from Years 7 to 12. There are a wide variety of options available for high schools. These include: High school is compulsory until Year 10, when students do their School Certificate or equivalent, depending on the state. You can't go to University with a School Certificate.

Students who stay on to Year 12 attempt the Higher School Certificate or equivalent. The students choose a certain number of units of subjects to do, usually around 12 or 13. Their best ten units are taken and totalled, and students ranked are given a University Admission Index (UAI), with a UAI of 100 indicating that you were top of the state, and a UAI of, say, 70, meaning that you were better than 70 per cent of candidates in that state.

Tertiary Education

University education entry is competitive and is based on the UAI received in the Higher School Certificate. Universities specify how many places are available for each course, and the top students by UAI are allowed to enrol. Students do pay fees, but they're not as massive as American ones (usually between A$3500 and A$5500 per year), nor do they have to be paid upfront. Rather there is a higher education contribution scheme (HECS), which means that students pay higher tax rates for the first few years after they graduate to recover the total cost of their degrees. Australia has a total of 36 universities. Arts and science bachelors' degrees are usually 3 years with an additional year for honours. Engineering bachelors' degrees are four years. Law degrees (which must also include another degree) are usually 5 years, with medicine 6 years. Masters degrees are usually 2 years after a bachelor's degree, and doctorates are 3 to 5 years after either masters or bachelors.

There are also technical and further education (TAFE) colleges available to teach vocational stuff, like plumbing, electronics etc. Usual course duration is 1 year or 2 years. Entry is by application.

Some of the above details differ to varying degrees from state-to-state, although in many cases only in the form of different names for the same things.

For example, in Western Australia:

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