Fewer overseas school students as COVID-19 hits

Media Release

The annual growth rate of students enrolled in schools across Australia was the lowest since 2008, according to data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Steven Nicholas, Director of Education and Training Statistics at the ABS, said that while 4,030,717 students were enrolled in school in 2021, 23,743 more than 2020, the growth rate of 0.6 per cent was the lowest in more than a decade.

“This is not unexpected given the large decrease (a net loss of 88,000 people) in net overseas migration experienced in 2020-21, the first net overseas migration loss since 1946. Full-Fee Paying Overseas Students fell by almost a quarter in 2021 (5,480 fewer students), Mr Nicholas said.

In 2021, government school enrolments experienced a fall of 0.2 per cent (6,388 fewer students) and non-government school enrolments increased 2.2 per cent (30,131 more students).

Primary school student enrolments across the country dipped slightly, with 836 fewer students enrolled compared with 2020 (a change of -0.04 per cent). Secondary school student enrolments increased by 24,579 students (a change of 1.4 per cent).

The Apparent Retention Rate, the estimated proportion of secondary students staying at school until Year 12, was 83.1 per cent, 0.5 percentage points lower than 2020. Like previous years, the 2021 Apparent Retention Rate was higher for females (87.6 per cent) than for males (78.7 per cent).

"For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students the Apparent Retention Rate was 59.0 per cent, up 10.3 percentage points in the last decade,” Mr Nicholas said.

In 2021, there were 9,581 schools in Australia, a net increase of 39 schools.

Across all schools the average student to teacher ratio was 13.3 students to one teacher. Independent schools had a lower student to teacher ratio (11.8) than government and Catholic schools (13.6 students to one teacher).

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.
  • The Full-Fee Paying Overseas Students (FFPOS) calculations do not include Northern Territory government schools, as the data are unavailable in the source data for 2019 and 2020.
  • 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 2021, an apparent retention rate for years 10 to 12 would measure the proportion of year 10 students in 2019 that had remained in the schooling system until year 12 in 2021.
  • For media requests and interviews, contact the ABS Media Team via media@abs.gov.au (8.30am-5pm Mon-Fri).
  • Subscribe to our media release notification service to get notified of ABS media releases or publications upon their release.
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