Educational activity can occur within a variety of learning environments, some more formal than others. Typically, formal learning occurs within the distinct sectors of preschool, school, vocational education and training, and higher education. Structured learning within formal institutions is characterised by delivery that is systemic, planned and organised ahead of time, and which usually involves some evaluation of achievement. Many other kinds of structured learning can take place outside formal institutions and can continue after a person has completed schooling or gained trade or higher qualifications. For instance, structured learning might be undertaken as a short teacher-based course in the workplace in order to acquire, develop or upgrade work-related skills.
Non-formal education is delivered in an unstructured way, and on an ad hoc basis. It does not necessarily involve any student-teacher relationship or evaluation of achievement. Non-formal education includes on-the-job training and self-directed learning.
There were 3.7 million students in the 15,000 preschools, primary and secondary schools in Australia at August 2008. The education industry contributed 4% of Australia's gross domestic product in 2007-08, and 7.6% of employed persons in August 2009.
Core measures of educational activity in Australia currently focus on participation (the process of education), attainment (the outputs, such as national testing, qualifications and non-award courses) and educational resources (the inputs, such as funding and human resources). The structure of this chapter reflects these core measures. After a brief discussion of government responsibilities in education, the chapter describes participation in each sector of education, from preschool through to higher education. It then examines educational participation and attainment, and concludes with information on sources of educational funding.
The chapter contains two articles - Overseas student enrolments with higher education providers and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study.