1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2012  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/05/2012   
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Education and training


Formal education in Australia may be categorised into four broad areas: early childhood education, schooling, vocational education and training (VET) and higher education.

Early childhood education encompasses programs in preschools and other child care settings. It is aimed at improving children’s readiness for school. Such programs are seen as particularly important for promoting social inclusion by minimising the educational gap that may be experienced by disadvantaged children upon commencement of school. They thereby ensure that all children are able to participate fully in subsequent learning opportunities.

Schooling prepares children for adult life by developing essential life skills such as literacy and numeracy, as well as by providing a foundational knowledge of the world around them. As schooling progresses from primary through to secondary and senior secondary education, subject matter becomes increasingly specialised. Recognition of the level of schooling attained is usually through the highest school year completed (e.g. Year 10), or by a Year 12 or equivalent Senior Secondary Certificate upon completion of the full secondary school program and any required examinations.

The primary goal of VET is to provide students with the skills and practices required to pursue a particular occupation or workplace task safely and effectively. VET can begin in secondary schooling and continues to develop people’s skills throughout their working lives. VET is often delivered in close association with workplaces, such as through the Australian Apprenticeships Scheme, where training through a TAFE college or other accredited provider is delivered alongside relevant work experience.

Higher education is characterised by intensive study over a number of years to achieve a recognised high-level qualification. Most higher education takes place within accredited universities or similar tertiary-level institutions.

Formal recognition of attainment of post-school educational qualifications is systemised through the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF). The AQF describes the levels of understanding and skill expected to be acquired through completion of a course at a given level, and the type of courses pursued. Most formal VET study results in the award of a Certificate level qualification (progressing from Certificate I to Certificate IV), a Diploma or an Advanced Diploma. Higher education classifications of level include Bachelor degree level (typically a three- or four-year course) or postgraduate study levels such as a Masters degree or Doctoral degree.

Courses delivered through workplaces, adult and community education (ACE) centres, and other private providers may involve structured delivery of skills and knowledge, but not be aimed at attaining a formal qualification. Such programs are referred to as ‘non-formal’ education and training. Non-formal programs make a major contribution to the continuous development and refreshing of skills and knowledge in areas as diverse as general workplace best practice, recreational and life skills, or occupational training. Many non-formal programs include certification of competencies; however, these are highly diverse and not recognised within the formal AQF levels.


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Statistics contained in the Year Book are the most recent available at the time of preparation. In many cases, the ABS website and the websites of other organisations provide access to more recent data. Each Year Book table or graph and the bibliography at the end of each chapter provides hyperlinks to the most up to date data release where available.