What’s Flawed About Australia’s Education System?


For all of its merits, everything has their flaws. What is Australia’s?

Inclusive of both High School and University.


I didn’t study in the Australian education system, but I have come to know a lot about it in my work. So I’m totally happy to be debated!

From what I’ve seen, there is a very poor emphasis on arts education, especially if you are a bright student. Many schools don’t even give students the choice to study art, drama, media studies and design, so not only is this taking away opportunities for students who want to explore the fine arts or media and communications, it is also taking away creative outlets for students who then also study very rigorous subjects like the sciences and histories. If you’re interested in this, Sir Ken Robinson is an education academic who advocates for more study of arts in schools and he gave a remarkable TED talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY

I also just want to put up this link to a study about acceptance rates and ATARs in Australia, and let you think about if its a good or bad thing: http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/sydney-university-reveals-atar-admissions-scores-20160919-grjjie.html


Hey, yeah there is some truth to this. Maybe not at GPS schools as every
department has great teachers and students are encourage to do what they do
best. They also have better resources. For public selective where most
students are Asian or Indian, there is a general lack of emphasis on arts
subjects especially where ‘tiger’ parents strongly inform the decisions of

I think some students also place pressure on themselves to take subjects
that will scale better, and then as a result of no interest, your typical
average school with limited resources will try to redistribute their
resources to cater for this hence taking away from the arts.

I also tend to think schools adapt to what’s expected of them by the
education system itself, and that’s where the real fault lies. I’ll watch
the vid today :slight_smile:


I think one of the flaws from the transition from High School to University is that the majority of university courses base their acceptance decision purely on ATAR and not on any other achievements (e.g. ECs). In this case, some students (as Jordan mentioned) might pick subjects that just scale better, and not subjects which they would be genuinely interested in. In addition, some people overlook courses and pick the course that simply matches up with their ATAR (e.g. a 95 ATAR student might think that an 88 ATAR Science course is too ‘easy’ and that a 95 ATAR Commerce course will be the better fit, even if they never really had any interest in Commerce.)

Another issue (which I’m not sure can be fixed) is that students have to start deciding what VCE subjects they will do from as early as Year 10. This is because they have to submit their preferred Unit 1/2 subjects to be completed in Year 11, which then are a pre-requisite for the Unit 3/4 subjects in Year 12.

At this stage, I had only really applied myself in Year 9, where we had a limited choice of electives to choose from. The only subject I enjoyed was Economics, and this essentially shaped what I was going to study from Year 10 onwards (and now in University!) - I had a few bad experiences with Science teachers and this completely threw me off Science to the point where I completed no Science subjects (something I regret now).


There are already a fair few answers on this, so I’ll add my two cents too!

Australia is a small country that punches way above its weight in many ways. The Times Higher Education rankings recently placed Australian National University (ANU) as the 7th best University in the world, between Oxford (6th) and Cambridge (8th). Four Australian Universities were ranked in the top 25 in the same ranking. Pretty impressive, right? And yet with all these high rankings, Australian academia has suffered. We rank the lowest of any English speaking country for Nobel Laureates per capita and we have only one Fields Medal to our name, Terence Tao. Of course, Australia is a young country, but so is New Zealand.

So here’s what I think is wrong with Australian education:

Lack of Unity

In Aus, each state has their own education system and final set of exams, but everyone receives an ATAR at the end of their final year of school, which is standardised across all exam systems. Of course, people travel across the country to do the course they want to do and find themselves in the same situation. They have huge gaps in their knowledge because they haven’t learnt the same content as native state residents. Universities are merciless with assumed knowledge and only some offer bridging courses that barely cover the syllabus. The lack of unity is damaging, diminishing the importance of an ATAR on both the domestic and international scales.

Women in STEM

It is heart breaking how few women study STEM subjects. In fact, it’s heart breaking how many women feel pressured to not study simply because they are women. This is true in all the world but especially obvious in Australia. University lecture halls for maths and science are filled with men. In a room of 200 people studying computer science, maybe 2 of them will be women. The proportions are that low, and it’s a real issue in Australia. A lot of medicine is dominated by men and nursing is something reserved for women. The same with vetenary science. It’s painful to watch

Poppy Cutting

This phenomenon is not often recognised in any country except for Australia. Poppy cutting occurs when one student appears to excel above all others and they are cut down by their peers or by the system. Take an excellent mathematician, for example. And I’m not talking about bullying, though this is a major issue at schools. Australian curriculums tend to categorise students and force them to think and write in certain ways. Take HSC English, for example. Students are drilled from year 7 that they have to write PETAL paragraphs, the marking criteria assesses how well a student selects one point of view and argues that. In fact, using a counterargument in your essay leads to lost marks. Invariably, students agree with the essay question they are given because the question uses terms extracted directly from the syllabus. Every subject is prescriptive and leaves little to the imagination. Excellent students are not given creative licence at school and have to wait until University before they can break out of their shells.


This may not be unique to Australia, but it’s certainly something that I personally find frustrating about the education system here. School subjects are often limited in what they can teach (with the exception of languages) by rigid syllabuses. Subjects like Physics lack depth because the syllabuses try to appeal to students who don’t study mathematics. Subjects like Software Development and Design don’t get anywhere near the attention they deserve because of ‘subject scaling’. Other subjects, like Visual Arts and PDHPE, have disproportionate candidatures because they’re ‘easier’ subjects. Many subjects lack scope and narrow down on particular aspects of a very broad field of study. They focus on the grind of cramming and lose a sense of what it actually means to study that subject. I’ve experienced the frustration associated with this first hand in subjects like English and Chemistry. I suppose, though, that this is an issue faced by all school syllabuses.