School attendance, or registration for home schooling, is compulsory throughout Australia. Education is the responsibility of the individual states and territories so the rules vary between states, but in general children are required to attend school from the age of about 5 up until about 16.In some states (e.g., WA, NT& NSW), children aged 16–17 are required to either attend school or participate in vocational training, such as an apprenticeship.
Most children transfer from the primary to the secondary school level at the age of 12. Secondary schools, known as high schools and junior technical schools, provide five- or six-year courses of study designed to prepare students for university entrance.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation conducts broadcasts for children unable to attend preschool centers. For the compulsory grades, special provisions are made for children who live in remote areas. These include Schools of the Air—where children use two-way radios, television sets, video and cassette recorders, and computers to participate in classroom instruction—and correspondence schools.
Australia has an adult literacy rate that was estimated to be 99% in 2003. However, a 2011–12 report for the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that Tasmania has a literacy and numeracy rate of only 50%. In the Programme for International Student Assessment, Australia regularly scores among the top five of thirty major developed countries. Catholic education accounts for the largest non-government sector.
Australia has 37 government-funded universities and two private universities, as well as a number of other specialist institutions that provide approved courses at the higher education level. The University of Sydney is Australia's oldest university, having been founded in 1850, followed by the University of Melbourne three years later. Other notable universities include those of the Group of Eight leading tertiary institutions, including the University of Adelaide, the Australian National University located in the national capital of Canberra, Monash University and the University of New South Wales.
The OECD places Australia among the most expensive nations to attend university. There is a state-based system of vocational training, known as TAFE, and many trades conduct apprenticeships for training new tradespeople. Approximately 58% of Australians aged from 25 to 64 have vocational or tertiary qualifications, and the tertiary graduation rate of 49% is the highest among OECD countries. The ratio of international to local students in tertiary education in Australia is the highest in the OECD countries.