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337 - Canberra School Summary

Canberra Summary 

An 'adequate school' means an elementary school (grades K - 8 or equivalent) or secondary school (grades 9 - 12 or equivalent) not requiring mandatory denominational religious instruction and providing an educational curriculum and services reasonably comparable to those normally provided without charge in public schools in the United States. The major criterion of "adequacy" is whether a child of normal ability, upon completion of a grade, or its equivalent, can enter the next higher grade in a public school in the United States". (From STR 270 Education Definitions/State Department Offices of Overseas Schools.)

Grade placement for children transferring from the Northern Hemisphere can sometimes be a problem due to the differences in the dates of the school year. The school year is divided into four term blocks. It begins the first of February and ends in mid-December, when the summer vacation occurs. There are short breaks of approximately two weeks at the end of terms in March/April, June/July and September/October. High schools, colleges, and some private schools close in early December.

Since the school year cycle differs from that of the US school system, students must be evaluated before entering schools in order to determine if they will advance or stay back a grade. Upon returning to the US educational system, students will again find themselves at a mid-year point in their academic year.

Additionally, there is no American or International school in Canberra and no school with an American curriculum. Students sometimes find language classes begun at one school are not offered at a new school. Subjects required for completion of US high school certificates, such as US History, Civics and U.S. Government are not offered in Canberra schools. Some students have completed such required subjects by correspondence through the University of Nebraska's Distance Learning Program.

Advanced Placement Courses are not offered in local high schools. These courses, offered by The College Board in New York, "give students the opportunity to pursue college level studies while still in secondary school and to receive advanced placement and credit, or one of these, upon entering college". (From STF 271 Education Allowance Definitions). While there are no actual Accelerated Studies/Talented and Gifted Programs, schools do offer advanced studies in Math's, Sciences and English through elective enrichment classes.

Parents and students are advised to visit the schools of interest and speak with the administration. The schools do differ in their emphasis. Each family and the school must assess each student individually. If a student is within 2 of the age range of his/her grade, is a good student, and arrives in Canberra between February and mid-July, he/she usually can go ahead a grade. For example, if a student finished Grade 7 in a Northern Hemisphere school in June, he/she probably can enter Grade 8 upon arrival. A student arriving after July would probably continue in Grade 7 and enter Grade 8 at the beginning of the next school year in February.

After the initial adjustment period most students are happy here and enjoy their Australian friends and school. Adjustments can, however, be much more difficult at high school level than elementary level because of the way subjects are taught, the different school structures, and teen social expectations.

Uniforms are required by private schools. Check with the individual school to find out particulars. Uniforms are not compulsory in public schools, but most primary schools have a uniform and children are expected to wear it. Public high schools have a dress color code. Uniforms can be purchased locally through school clothing shops or retail outlets, and second hand uniforms are available through school clothing pools.

There is an education allowance granted for Canberra. Expenses in excess of the maximum amount granted for education allowance cannot be reimbursed. Present allowances cover reimbursable costs for all schools. They do not cover costs of uniforms or elective classes.

Pre-schools are located in most suburbs, generally near the local primary school, but run for the most part independently. Children can be placed on a waiting list at age 3. Children attend for 2 or 3 half-day sessions for about 12 hours a week in the year before beginning school. Costs are reasonable - about AU$120 per child per annum. Education allowance cannot be granted for children enrolled in pre-school (Some pre-schools also have parent-operated groups for 3 year-olds a few hours each week). For children under age 4, Canberra Montessori and Canberra Boys Grammar offer preschool programs in the mornings, 5 days a week, Montessori provides an after school program 5 days a week.

Pre-school facilities, both privately and government sponsored, are available in most areas for four-year olds. They are generally located near the primary schools but operate separately with some parental help. Private preschools include several Montessori schools, a Steiner pre-school; a French-Australian and a Chinese-Australian pre-school. The brochure "Child Care Facilities in the ACT", available from the CLO (and on file at the Overseas Briefing Center) contains a list of some of the private pre-schools in Canberra as well as day-care options. In some areas there is a waiting list for pre-school admission, especially in private schools. 


Kindergartens are part of the local primary schools and they follow regular school hours.

Children must be five years of age by March 31 of the year of entry to begin in the February of that year.

Private Schools 

Most private schools are church-sponsored by either the Catholic or the Anglican Church of Australia, although membership in the sponsoring church is not a requirement for admission.

It can be difficult to enroll children in private schools, as waiting lists may be long. Most private schools require a non-refundable application fee.

Private-school fees are expensive; however, the educational allowance is adequate to cover most costs. In order for your child to attend a private school you must provide a written justification to the 337th Schools Officer/NCO. They will in turn forward it along with all appropriate paperwork to the Department of Defense Dependents School (DoDDS) for review and ruling. If you have children, and wish to consider enrolling then in a private school, write to the post early to obtain further information. Some of the private schools provide educational facilities from kindergarten through grade 12; others follow a structure similar to that of the public schools. 

Special Education 

Canberra does not have comparable special education support as found in US schools. The ACT maintains FOCUS Programs for students with significant sensory impairment and integration support for students with intellectual and/or multiple disabilities who cannot be supported in mainstream settings. The emphasis here is on students with hearing, vision, and communication disorders.

Students enrolled in mainstream settings may receive support from a Special Teacher's Assistant for some part of the day or week. These assistants are not always trained special education teachers. Alternatively, mainstreamed students may also be enrolled in small units called Leaning Support Centers attached to regular schools (ratio: 14-16 students per instructor).

Koomarri, Malkara and Cranleigh are schools for children with special educational needs. Programs in these schools concentrate on training in self-care, gross and fine motor skills, sensory experiences and language development. Parental involvement is encouraged. The Senior School at Koomarri also provides a pre-vocational program preparing the students for workshop employment. Placement for children with special needs should be raised with post early in the assignment process. 


A supplementary education allowance may be available to help defray tutoring expenses for children who require additional instruction in order to enter, or remain in, the grade appropriate for their age and previous education. Tutoring is a reimbursable expense, but there has to be a shown deficiency by the local school. This is especially useful to help students fit into the mathematics program which is taught so differently here in Australia. 

Higher Education 

There are two universities in Canberra: Australian National University (ANU), an internationally recognized school with a strong research orientation and large graduate program, and the University of Canberra (UC), with a full range of professional degree programs, including teaching and nursing degrees. The Canberra Institute of the Arts, which comprises the Schools of Music and Art, became part of the Australian National University in 1992.

Entry to both universities is competitive, but overseas students are accepted subject to satisfactory academic qualifications and availability of places. At present, both universities require U.S-educated students to have a U.S. High School diploma with mostly A's and a minimum of 1050 to 1100 in SAT scores, with much higher scores for entry to some degree courses, or a year at a regionally accredited college or university.

No 'subsidized' fees exist for overseas students as for Australian students. In 1998, the Fees for overseas students for undergraduate degree courses range from AU$1,500 to AU$16,000 per annum. Books, room, and board are extra. Books, including school textbooks, are expensive in Australia.

Further educational opportunities are also available through the Canberra Institute of Technology, which is a large multi-campus provider of a wide range of tertiary education and training courses. The CIT is part of the Australian TAFE (Tertiary and Further Education) system, which is government-funded and provides vocational education and training programs to persons in the workforce, school leavers and members of the community. CIT offers more than 300 courses from certificate to diploma, through nine teaching schools at nine different campus locations in the ACT. These include the Schools of Applied Arts and Design, Applied Science, Construction Studies, Electrical and Electronic Studies, Engineering, General Studies, Language and Community Services, Management and Business Studies, and Tourism and Hospitality. Fees vary by course, but are about AU$5000 per annum for full-time overseas students at present. For further information contact:

The Registrar
The Australian National University
GPO Box 4 Canberra, ACT 2601
Phone (02) 6249-4643
Fax(02) 6249-5550

The Registrar
University of Canberra
P0 Box I Belconnen, ACT 2616
Phone (02) 6252 1111
Fax (02) 6201-5999

The Registrar
Canberra Institute of Technology
GPO Box 226 Jamison ACT 2614
Phone (02) 6207-4441
Fax (02) 6207-4343