High School

Australia has the third highest number of international students in the world behind only the United Kingdom and the United States despite having a population of only 23 million? This isn’t surprising when you consider Australia has seven of the top 100 universities in the world! In fact, with over 22,000 courses across 1,100 institutions, Australia sits above the likes of Germany, the Netherlands and Japan, ranking eighth in the Universities 2012 U21 Ranking of National Higher Education Systems.

These are strong academic credentials, but our institutions are just as highly rated as the cities that house them around the country. Australia has five of the 30 best cities in the world for students based on student mix, affordability, quality of life, and employer activity – all important elements for students when choosing the best study destination.

And with more than A$200 million provided by the Australian Government each year in international scholarships, we’re making it easier for you to come and experience the difference an Australian education can make to your future career opportunities.

Given this impressive education pedigree, it’s not surprising there are now more than 2.5 million former international students who have gone on to make a difference after studying in Australia. Some of these students are among the world’s finest minds. In fact, Australia has produced 15 Nobel prize laureates and every day over 1 billion people around the world rely on Australian discoveries and innovations – including penicillin, IVF, ultrasound, Wi-Fi, the Bionic Ear, cervical cancer vaccine and Black Box Flight Recorders – to make their lives, and the lives of others, better.

Courses and qualifications

Australia’s secondary schools adhere to a national curriculum framework, which is being progressively developed and implemented in schools to set high national standards in English, mathematics, science, history, languages, geography, the arts, health and physical education, information and communication technology, civics and citizenship, economics and business. In order to gain accreditation to accept international students, a school must provide, or have access to, specialist English language programs.

School education is similar across all of Australia with only minor variations between states and territories. School education (primary and secondary) is compulsory between the ages of six and sixteen (Year 1 to Year 9 or 10).
School education is 13 years and divided into:

  • Primary school - Runs for seven or eight years, starting at Kindergarten/Preparatory through to Year 6 or 7.
  • Secondary school - Runs for three or four years, from Years 7 to 10 or 8 to 10.
  • Senior secondary school - Runs for two years, Years 11 and 12.

In addition to gaining a first-class education, your child will learn about Australian culture and acquire high-level English language skills.

Across the states and territories, the final years of secondary school have a different name (see below).

State or territory

Name of Year 12 qualification

Australian Capital Territory (ACT)
ACT Year 12 Certificate
New South Wales (NSW) 
Higher School Certificate (HSC)
Northern Territory (NT)
Northern Territory Certificate of Education and Training (NTCET)
Queensland (QLD)
Queensland Certificate of Education (QCE)
South Australia (SA)
South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE)
Tasmania (TAS)
Tasmanian Certificate of Education (TCE)
Victoria (VIC)
Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) & Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL)
Western Australia (WA)
Western Australian Certificate of Education (WACE)

Different secondary schools offer different elective subjects, class structures and areas of specialisation. In addition to the subjects offered, it’s a good idea to research the school’s focus and extracurricular activities to help you find the school most suited to your needs and interests.

Average tuition costs

Secondary school fees for international students vary widely, from AUD$7800 to $30,000 per year at an elite private school.

Entry requirements

Entry requirements vary throughout Australia. The selection process involves consideration of the applicant’s academic record along with other factors, which may include sporting achievement and other extracurricular accomplishments.

Further study

The successful completion of secondary school allows students to apply for entry to further education, but it does not guarantee a place. Entry into most Australian higher education courses is on a competitive basis for both international and local students.