Education in Western Australia

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education schools in western australiaFollowing on from our overview of Education in Australia, the next article in this series focuses on Education in Western Australia.

Education in Western Australia is supervised by the Department of Education and Training (DET), which forms part of the Government of Western Australia. It follows a three-tier system, consisting of primary education (primary schools), followed by secondary education (secondary schools or secondary colleges) and tertiary education (Universities and TAFE Colleges).

Education is compulsory in Western Australia between the ages of six and seventeen. From 1 January 2008 persons in their 17th year must be in school, training, or have a job until the end of that year.

Pre-school

Pre-school in Western Australia 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. 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

Primary education consists of seven grades: a preparatory year (commonly called “pre-primary”) followed by Years 1 to 7. The minimum age at which a child can commence primary school education is 4.8 years. That is, the child can enrol in a school at the preparatory level if he or she would be five years of age by 30 April of that year. A child must commence education before age six.

Secondary school

Secondary schooling consists of years 8 to 12. Secondary schools are generally separate institutions to primary schools, however this is not always the case.

Tertiary Entrance Exam

The Tertiary Entrance Exam (TEE) was the standard academic examination for students completing their twelfth year of schooling up until 2010 when it was renamed the West Australian Certificate of Education (WACE) . The results of the exams were used to determine a students Tertiary Entrance Rank and Tertiary Entrance Score, which determine a students eligibility for tertiary study.

Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank

The Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR) was introduced in 2010 in all states of Australia bar Queensland as a means of standardizing the national university entrance system. The ATAR system follows the same principles as the systems that it replaces and improves upon them by allowing for greater interstate comparison of student achievements.

Curriculum

The curriculum for all Western Australian schools, both government and non-government is determined by the Curriculum Council. Secondary students in years 11 and 12 are enrolled in the Western Australian Certificate of Education program.

Technical and Further Education

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.

In addition to TAFE Institutes, there are 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.

Tertiary institutions

The classification of tertiary qualifications in Western Australia 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.

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