Differences & Similarities Between The South African and Australian School Systems

Differences & Similarities Between The South African and Australian School Systems - Proudly South African In Perth

There are many similarities in Australian and South African culture and this also extends to their schooling systems. I thought I would share some of the key differences and similarities between the South African and Australian school systems.

As a parent, when you move to Australia you might have concerns about the schooling system in Australia.

You’re probably asking yourself questions like:

Is it the right time to uproot my children?

Should we wait until the end of the school year before we move to Australia?

Which year will my children go into when I move?

To help you prepare for school in Australia, here are some of the key differences and similarities between the South African and Australian school systems.


Public Vs Private

Just like 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.



I often see people ask if there are any Afrikaans schools in Australia.


All schools here teach in English. All schools offer second languages, but these are usually Asian or European languages.

I did read about a school in Busselton that was offering Afrikaans but when I looked through their website there was no mention of this and their foreign language currently is Chinese.

If your children are predominantly Afrikaans speaking, it might be an idea to start introducing English slowly.

There are lots of kids here that arrive not speaking English, but they do pick it up quickly. This year there is a French boy in my son’s class and within a term, he went from having zero English to being perfectly proficient.

Kids are resilient – they will cope.


School Fees

Government school fees in Australia are extremely low compared to South Africa.

It does depend on your state and school, but primary schools often start from $60 per year (yes per year!). The only other things you have to pay for are uniforms, incursions and excursions (which are optional) and some stationery for the year.

If you have kids in high school, they might be required to have iPads or MacBooks – these requirements vary from school to school though and will be stated in their enrolment information.

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 on what you want to pay for!

This is comparable to costs for private schooling in South Africa (although the top fees are closer to the R200,000 per year mark).

Private schools in Australia and South Africa are usually faith-based schools.


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 kindy 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.


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). They will go into pre-primary at this age.

In South Africa children only need to start school in the year they turn 7. They will go into Grade 1 at this age.

This is a huge age difference for starting formal schooling. Many leading academics actually believe a delayed start to formal schooling is far better than an early one.

If an early starting age concerns you, look for community kindy’s. These are often play-based learning and offer a much more gentle start to formal education than some kindy’s which are attached to schools. My son attended Hillarys Community Kindy and it was fantastic.



Just as in South Africa, there is a huge emphasis on sporting activities in Australia.

Kids have many extra-curricular options to choose from including AFL, cricket, rugby, soccer, swimming, hockey, surfing, lifesaving and much more.

The main difference in Australia is that most schools do not offer sports outside of school hours – children find local clubs and groups where they can choose to do their activities, usually after school or on weekends.


Academics & Trades

There are many schools in Australia 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 called 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 and academic career.

There is no stigma attached with attending a TAFE school in Australia, which is not always the case in South Africa.


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.


These are some of the key differences and similarities between the South African and Australian school systems.

How have you found the Australian school system compare to the South African school system? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.



About Author

Helping you move to, settle in, and explore your new home in Australia. Avid reader, beach lover, and horse addict. As someone who has emigrated, not once, not twice, but three times, I know exactly what you’re going through. The ups and downs of emigration are faster than a rollercoaster and I’ve been there – three times!


  • Charles Rethman
    9th October 2018 at 6:23 pm

    Just a comment on school fee inflation, Reeva. In Cape Town, Bishops (a full private school) costs R130,000 a year BEFORE extras, making it around R150k. It is, of course, a top school. SACS, which is semi-government, costs R48,000 p.a. plus about R10-20k for extras, so around R63,000. It is also a top school and arguably better value for money than a full private school (but fiendishly hard to get your child int0).
    So, yes, Australia is much cheaper for school fees.


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