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Friday, June 24, 2011

AUS vs USA: Comparing Education Systems

Apart from the obvious differences such as the flip-flop of seasons and the adorable accents my students have, Australian culture overall draws a lot of parallels to American culture.  The language is the same (aside from a more readily apparent British influence here), appearances are similar to those found in America, and the cultural values are similar to those emphasized in America as well. 

As far as education is concerned, the Australian system and the American system have a lot of similarities.  The day is structured in pretty much the same way in the both countries where students go through a series of subjects like English, Math, Reading, and Art, and concepts such as spelling are revisited at intervals throughout the week.  The dynamic between the students and their teachers is also very similar to that found in American primary schools.  Students see the teacher as the definite authority figure in the classroom and seem to respect whatever decisions their teacher makes.  At the same time, however, they are encouraged to share their views with the teacher and with one another so that each can learn from the other.

The main differences I have noticed between Australian schools and American schools is the attitude of the teachers and the independence of the students.  Students, even in year one, here lead themselves to activities, deliver messages to teachers, answer the telephones, and help each other out by taking other students to the nurse, etc.  Even on my first day here, two year one girls led me on a tour of the school.  In America, this task would have most likely been delegated to a teacher or other member of the administrative team.  Teachers here seem to be much more relaxed than teachers in America as reflected by their casual attire, delegation of tasks to students, and lack of any real lesson plans.  The lessons that I have taught in America have all had to be thoroughly planned out on paper whereas here the teachers rarely know what they are doing the next hour of their day.  They take each lesson as it comes and develop plans on the fly.  I’m sure there is some formal observation that needs to take place, but I have not seen any – even in classrooms where there is a student teacher.  I’ve really enjoyed this atmosphere as a student teacher because it makes everything seem so stress-free and relaxed, but I do not know how well I would do in a classroom without a little bit more planning ahead.  I admire these teachers’ ability to be so spontaneous and hopefully I can learn a little from them and bring that sort of atmosphere to my future classroom.


  1. Kim, it's funny reading about your experiences teaching in Australia as they are very similar to mine and I feel like you have put a lot of my own thoughts into words. I have also noticed that the teachers at my school do a lot on the fly instead of planning intensely before each lesson. I did not once see a teacher looking at a lesson plan before teaching it, which I found incredibly impressive. Seems that Australian teachers are different to American teachers in the same ways at all grade levels!

  2. Hello, Kim. It is nice to see that it seems to be universal that teachers are seen as the definite authority figure in the classroom. I studied abroad in Singapore and I definitely feel like it was very clear who held the power in the classroom. While in the US, verbal reprimands are not always enough, it was certainly enough in the classroom that I was in. The students were very disciplined. I also think that it is interesting that you said that teachers in Australia do not do as much planning as the teachers in America. I am not sure if I could start a class day without having a plan so I wish that I could see classrooms where that is the norm. It was the opposite in Singapore. I feel as if teachers were planned for the year. There were daily modifications but since I was in a sixth grade classroom (the last year of primary school), the curriculum was very exam-based. They needed to prepare the students for the exam they will take at the end of the year so teachers could even tell me where they would be a month from now. From what I saw, student teachers also seemed to be very stressed. They spent a long time planning their lessons and many of their lessons are observed. After being in such an environment, I would love to see how things are on the other end of the spectrum.


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