Moving overseas when you have children already at school comes with a whole host of responsibilities. Is it the right time to uproot your children? Do you wait until the end of the school year? Which year will they be put into when you move?
These are just some of the questions parents may ask themselves before making their final decisions to relocate abroad.
For South African families migrating to Australia, it’s good to know that some of the similarities between the Australian and South African cultures extend to the schooling systems.
Here are some of the key differences and similarities.
1. Public vs private
As in South Africa, you have the option of sending your child to a public (government school) or a private school. There are many public and private schools in Australia and the choice can be daunting. Most people are happy to send their children to their local government primary school but when it comes to high school options, parents often choose private if their local public school does not have the best reputation. For public schools, you usually have to live within certain boundaries for your children to be able to attend.
2. School fees
Government school fees in Australia are extremely low. Primary schools usually charge $60 per year (yes per year!) and the only other things you have to pay for are uniforms, excursions (which are optional) and some stationery for the year.
Compare this to around R10,000 to R20,000 a year for government schools in SA and Australia is very reasonable when it comes to public school fees.
Private schools in Australia, on the other hand, can charge anywhere from $800 a year to over $30,000 a year, it all depends what you want to pay for! This is comparable to costs for private schooling in South Africa (although the top fees are more around the R200,000 a year mark). Private schools in Australia and South Africa are usually faith-based schools.
3. School years
Compulsory schooling usually starts in pre-primary in Australia which is the equivalent of Grade 0 in South Africa. There is an optional year of kindergarten which is the year before pre-primary, but some states in Australia have compulsory kindy and others do not (just to make it more confusing!).
Primary school in Australia runs from kindy through to Year 6, which is the equivalent of Grade 00 to Grade 6 in South Africa. High school then runs from Year 7 to Year 12 in Australia, compared to Grade 8 to Grade 12 in South Africa.
4. Starting age
Children must start school in Australia by the time they turn 5 before 30 June (which is the school cut off age date each year). In South Africa children only need to start school in the year they turn 7. This is a huge age difference and indeed many leading academics believe delayed starts to formal schooling is far better than early starts.
Just as in South Africa, there is a huge emphasis on sporting activities within schools in Australia. Kids have many extra-curricular options to choose from including AFL, cricket, rugby, soccer, swimming, hockey, surfing, lifesaving and much more.
6. Academics & trades
There are many schools which focus on academics and encourage children in their studies, just like in South Africa. But there are also schools across Australia which teach children trades as well as academic subjects. These are referred to as TAFE schools and children can attend TAFE.
TAFE is available for the last two years of formal schooling in Australia (Year 11 and 12) and is ideal for children who do not want to pursue an academic career. There is no stigma attached with attending a TAFE school in Australia, which is not always the case in South Africa.
7. Leaving age
South Africa and Australia have the same school leaving age – students must complete Year 10 (Grade 10) before they receive any formal school qualification.