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Education in Victoria

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Subject: Teaching in Victoria, Curriculum and Standards Framework, Government of Victoria (Australia), Education in Tasmania, Norman Lacy
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Education in Victoria

Williamstown School
State Library of Victoria, Melbourne's largest public library. (La Trobe Reading Room – 5th floor view)

Education in Victoria, Australia is supervised by the Department of Education and Training (DET), which is part of the State Government and whose role is to 'provide policy and planning advice for the delivery of education'.[1] It acts as advisor to two state ministers, that for Education and for Children and Early Childhood Development.

Education in Victoria follows the three-tier model consisting of primary education (primary schools), followed by secondary education (secondary schools or secondary colleges) and tertiary education (Universities and TAFE Colleges).

School education is compulsory in Victoria between the ages of six and seventeen.[2] A student is free to leave school on turning seventeen, which is prior to completing secondary education. In recent years over three quarters of students are reported to be staying on until they are eighteen, at the end of the secondary school level. Government schools educate about two thirds of Victorian students, with the other third in independent schools, a proportion which is rising in many parts of Australia.

Education in government schools until year 12 is free,[3] but this does not apply to overseas students nor to students over the age of 20 on 1 January of the year of enrolment. Independent schools, both religious and secular, charge fees, which are subsidised by the Federal and State governments.

Although non-tertiary public education is free, 35% of students attend a private primary or secondary school.[4] The most numerous private schools are Catholic, and the rest are independent (see Public and Private Education in Australia).

Regardless of whether a school is government or independent, they are required to adhere to the same curriculum frameworks. Education in all government schools must be secular and not promote any particular religious practice, denomination or sect.[5] Most school students, be they in a government or independent school, usually wear uniforms, although there are varying expectations and some schools do not require uniforms.

Post-compulsory education is regulated within the Australian Qualifications Framework, a unified system of national qualifications in schools, vocational education and training (TAFE) and the higher education sector (university).

The academic year in Victoria generally runs from late January until mid-December for primary and secondary schools and TAFE colleges, and from late February until mid-November for universities. Victorian schools operate on a four term basis. Schools are closed for the Victorian public holidays. Universities observe the Commonwealth public holidays.


Prior to 1872 religious/denominational schools were maintained separately from government schools. The Denominational School Board provided for denominational schools and the National School Board, later the Board of Education, provided government sponsored secular education. In 1872, following growing dissatisfaction with State aid to religious schools and the burgeoning cost of funding and administering a dual school system, the government introduced free, compulsory and secular education and established the first Education Department. The Department became the employer of government teachers and Victoria had a Minister for Education. State aid to denominational schools ended in 1874.[6]

The 'free, secular and compulsory' Education Act of 1872 put Victorian education in a legislative context that would continue for more than 100 years. It created the Education Department of Victoria under a Cabinet Minister. It also took away power from local government "and parents, withdrew State aid from church schools, centralised recruitment, training and dispersal of teachers, separated secular from religious instruction, abolished fees and mandated attendance for children between the ages of 6 and 15".[7]

"The depression of the 1890s left the teaching service demoralised. Buildings deteriorated and the curriculum stagnated until 1902 when Frank Tate was appointed Victoria's first director of education, charged with implementing the recommendations of the 1899 Fink Royal Commission to modernise the system. Tate became the apostle of a child-centred pedagogy, introducing kindergarten methods into the Infant Departments and broadening the primary curriculum to include the manual arts, elementary science, music, literature, history and physical education."[7]

After World War II the baby boom and postwar immigration precipitated a crisis in Victoria's schools. In the new suburbs of Melbourne children were crowded into large classes in church halls and other temporary accommodation until schools could be completed, while the old brick schools of the inner suburbs struggled to accommodate large numbers of children from non-English-speaking backgrounds. As high schools extended across the city, primary schools, stripped of grades 7 and 8, no longer provided their pupils' total education experience. An acute shortage of teachers saw married women cajoled to return to the classroom, although without the benefit of permanent employment. The 1970s saw Victoria's primary schools transformed with a new flowering of child-centred pedagogy, school-based curriculum development, multiculturalism, a more genuine partnership with parents, a more militant brand of teacher unionism and the dedication of married women teachers who were readmitted on a permanent basis in 1956.[7]

From 1979 to 1982 the Hamer Liberal government initiated and implemented the most significant and far-reaching reorganisation of the Victorian Education Department in the 20th Century.[1][8][9][10] The Hon Alan Hunt as Minister of Education (1979 – 1982) and the Hon Norman Lacy as Assistant Minister of Education (1979 – 1980) and Minister for Educational Services (1980 – 1982) were jointly responsible for the reform policy development process and the early stages of its implementation.[11] Together they made a formidable team in the pursuit of their mission to reform the administration of the centralised and inefficient Department. Hunt appointed Lacy Chairman of the Ministerial Consultative Committee that steered the project in its early phase and the Implementation Steering Committee later. Lacy's managerial and educational philosophy were a significant influence on the process and the outcome.[2] [3] He pulled together an impressive group of people from academia and business to assist him as well as PA Management Consultants.[4] The Government legislated - at the end of 1981 - to scrap the teaching divisions (Primary, Secondary and Technical) and to remove the statutory bodies (The Committee of Classifiers and the Teachers’ Tribunal).[5][12] Hunt and Lacy sought and obtained the support of the Labor opposition and the National Party. When the Cain Labor government won office at the April 1982 election the new Minister of Education, the Hon Robert Fordham (1982 – 1985) instituted a policy review by a Ministerial Review Committee headed by Dr Ken McKinnon.[13] The Committee made up mostly of teacher union and parent organisation representatives recommended modifications which Fordham went on to incorporate as he completed the implementation of the restructuring of the Department generally as recommended by the White Paper. Fordham had supported the general thrust of the reform process in opposition and followed through on the project when in government.



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 a few days per week.

Primary schools

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.

Secondary schools

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.

There are six selective public schools in Melbourne (entry based on examination/audition): Melbourne High School, MacRobertson Girls' High School, Nossal High School, Suzanne Cory 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'.[14][15][15]

The Victorian Student Representative Council serves to connect student voice efforts across the state.


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).[16] Between prep and Year 10 the AusVELS[17] 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.


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. (List of schools offering the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme)

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.


Government or state schools

The 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.

Three government secondary schools are selective: Melbourne High School, catering for boys, Mac.Robertson Girls' High School, catering for girls and Nossal High School, catering for both boys and 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

The "Mother and Son" sculpture at Scotch College, Melbourne, which celebrates the role of mothers in the boys' lives and education

Most 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.[4] The most numerous private schools are Catholic, and the rest are independent (see Public and Private Education in Australia).

Home Schooling

Tertiary institutions

Ormond College (1879), University of Melbourne
Queen's College, University of Melbourne

Melbourne 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.[18] 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.[19]

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.[20]

Technical and Further Education (TAFE)

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 (TAE40110) 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

Learn Local education and training

Learn Local organisations deliver a broad range of education and training in community settings. Each year over 110,000 Victorians[21] undertake training at a Learn Local organisation. To be part of the Learn Local network and deliver pre-accredited training, an organisation must be registered with the Adult, Community and Further Education (ACFE) Board.[22]

Learn Local organisations can deliver both pre-accredited and accredited training. Pre-accredited training is unique to the Learn Local sector. Pre-accredited training programs are designed to help learners gain the confidence and skills needed to seek employment and further education opportunities. They include courses in communication, job search skills, returning to work skills and literacy and numeracy skills. In order to offer accredited training, Learn Local organisations have to be Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) which results in the delivery of qualifications equivalent to RTOs. Approximately 50% of Learn Local organisations are RTOs.

Learn Local organisations also offer other services such as childcare facilities, career advice, financial assistance or disability support services to support people to be able to undertake learning.

There are over 300 Learn Local organisations across regional, rural and metropolitan Victoria, Australia which form the Learn Local education and training sector. There are also two AEI (Adult Educational Institutions) in the Learn Local network, CAE and AMES.

Centre for Adult Education

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.[23] CAE's objective is to deliver courses designed to help adults complete their secondary education and begin or change their career direction.


AMES (Australian Multicultural Education Services) helps new and recently arrived refugees and migrants to settle in to Victoria. Their core services include on-arrival settlement support, English language and literacy training, vocational training and employment services. AMES deliver services from sixteen major locations in metropolitan Melbourne and have a network of over 2300 volunteers working with over 800 staff who speak over 90 languages. AMES builds partnerships with universities, TAFEs, migrant resource centres, health, real estate and community organisations across Victoria to meet clients’ individual needs.

Notable alumni

Melbourne schools are predominant among Australian schools whose alumni are listed in Who's Who in Australia, a listing of notable Australians.[24][25][26] In the top ten boys schools in Australia for Who's Who-listed alumni, Melbourne schools are Scotch College (first in Australia - it is also Melbourne's oldest secondary school[27]), Melbourne Grammar School (second), Melbourne High School (third), Geelong Grammar School (fourth - has a junior campus in suburban Toorak) and Wesley College (sixth). In the top ten girl's schools for Who's Who-listed alumni Melbourne schools are Presbyterian Ladies College (first in Australia), Methodist Ladies College (third), Melbourne Girls Grammar School (fifth), Mac.Robertson Girls' High School (sixth) and University High School (tenth).[28]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Education and Training Reform Act 2006, sec. 2.1.1
  3. ^ Education and Training Reform Act 2006, sec. 2.2.4
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ Education and Training Reform Act 2006, sec. 2.2.10
  6. ^ A history of state education in Victoria. (1922) With an introd. by Alexander J. Peacock
  7. ^ a b c Theobald, Marjorie and Swain, Shurlee Education, Primary in eMelbourne the City Past and Present[6]
  8. ^ Aims and Objectives of Education in Victoria Ministerial Statement by The Hon A.J.Hunt MLC Minister of Education in the Legislative Council and The Hon Norman Lacy MP Assistant Minister of Education in the Legislative Assembly on 12 December 1979
  9. ^ Alan Hunt and Norman Lacy, Strategies and Structures for Education in Victoria, Victorian Government Printer, 1981
  10. ^ Alan J. Hunt, "A Government Thrusts Towards Change" in M Frazer, J Dunstan, P Creed Eds., Perspectives on Organisational Change, Longmans, 1985, pp 13 - 32
  11. ^ Murray Landt - Past President Victorian Primary Principals Association - "The years 1980 and 1981 were very significant years in the history of state education in Victoria. For the first time in eighty years there was a complete restructure of the Education Department. "
  12. ^ Education (Amendment) Bill Explanatory Second Reading Speech by The Hon. Norman Lacy MP Minister of Educational Services in the Legislative Assembly on 10 September 1981
  13. ^ Robert C. Fordham, "A New Government’s Organisational Review" in M Frazer, J Dunstan, P Creed Eds., Perspectives on Organisational Change, Longmans, 1985, pp 57 - 70
  14. ^
  15. ^ a b How Much Do Public Schools Really Cost? Estimating the Relationship Between House Prices and School Quality, ANU, 6 August 2006
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ Through the Adult Community and Further Education Division (ACFE)
  24. ^
  25. ^ Mark Peel and Janet McCalman, Who Went Where in Who's Who 1988: The Schooling of the Australian Elite, Melbourne University History Research Series Number 1, 1992
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ . The rankings for boy's schools are: 1.Scotch College, Melbourne, 2.Melbourne Grammar School, 3.Melbourne High School, 4.Geelong Grammar School, 5.Sydney Boys High School, 6.Wesley College, Melbourne, 7.Shore, 8.Fort Street Boys' High, 9.North Sydney Boys High School, 10.Sydney Grammar School. The ranking for girl's schools are: 1.Presbyterian Ladies College, Melbourne, 2.SCEGGS Darlinghurst, 3.MLC Melbourne, 4.PLC Sydney, 5.Melbourne Girls Grammar School, 6.Mac.Robertson Girls' High School, 7.North Sydney Girls High School, 8.Sydney Girls High School, 9.MLC Sydney, 10.University High School, Melbourne

External links

  • Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Victoria website
    • About the Department
    • Changes to the Department
  • Facts and figures about Victoria's education system
  • School term dates for Victoria
  • Statutory Authorities in the Victorian education portfolio
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