Australia has over 4 million school students

Media Release

The number of students enrolled in schools across Australia reached 4 million for the first time (4,006,974) in 2020 according to data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) today.

Steven Nicholas, Director of Education and Training Statistics at the ABS said: “In 2020, there was an increase of 58,163 students (1.5 per cent) enrolled in school, which meant enrolments had surpassed the 4 million mark for the first time.

“The last milestone was met back in 1983, when for the first time more than 3 million students were enrolled in school,” he said.

Government schools held the greatest share of enrolments (65.6 per cent), followed by Catholic schools (19.4 per cent) and independent schools (15.0 per cent). These numbers have remained relatively steady over the last decade. In 2010, 65.6 per cent of students were enrolled in government schools while Catholic schools had a slightly larger share (20.3 percent in 2010) and independent schools slightly smaller (14.0 per cent in 2010).

The Apparent Retention Rate, the estimated proportion of secondary students staying at school until Year 12 was 83.6 per cent, which was close to the rate in 2019 (84.0 per cent). In comparison the Apparent Retention Rate was 78.0 per cent back in 2010. As in previous years, the 2020 Apparent Retention Rate was higher for females (88.0 per cent) than for males (79.3 per cent).

"For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students the Apparent Retention Rate increased between 2010 and 2020, from 47.2 per cent to 59.6 per cent,” said Mr Nicholas.

In 2020, there were 9,542 schools in Australia and across all schools the average student to teacher ratio was 13.5 students to one teacher.  Independent schools had a lower student to teacher ratio (11.8) while Catholic schools (13.7) and government schools (13.9) were higher than the national average.

Media notes

  • When reporting ABS data you must attribute the Australian Bureau of Statistics (or the ABS) as the source.
  • Students were considered to be enrolled, even if schooling had been temporarily disrupted by COVID-19.
  • Apparent Retention Rate provides an estimate measure of the proportion of students who have stayed at school, for a designated calendar year and year level of education. For example, in 2020, an apparent retention rate for Years 10 to 12 would measure the proportion of Year 10 students in 2018 that had remained in the schooling system until Year 12 in 2020.
  • For media requests and interviews, contact the ABS Media Team via (8.30am-5pm Mon-Fri).
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