Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Australian School Year - Explanation and Comparison

The Australian school year ties in with the calendar year. The year is broken into 4 terms (3 longer ones in Tasmania) of approximately 10 weeks, with about 2 weeks break between terms. The school year ends in December, just before Christmas. We enjoy our summer holiday at this time - usually about 5 or 6 weeks (depending on school or system agreements). This totals about 200 days (minus a few for public holidays). The school system in New Zealand is very similar.

As I taught a year in the USA, I have experience of that school year structure as well. I'd have to say that I'm biased toward Australia's structure, possibly because it's what I have always known.

  • I like that it coincides with the calendar year - so feels 'tidy'.

  • I like that the end of the year falls around Christmas time - it adds to the celebratory feel.

  • I like that we teach for 10 weeks and then have two weeks off - this helps to break the year up into tidy segments and provides time for rejuvenation.

When I taught in a private school in the USA I felt like I was constantly working. I had a break for Christmas and Spring Break but these breaks didn't coincide with the school terms. I found it really strange to finish one term on a Friday and start a new term the following Monday. Because of the nature of my visa, I didn't get to enjoy the long summer break that is the bonus of teaching in the USA. I arrived 10 days before my start date and left 10 days after my finish date. My experience of teaching in the USA required a lot of adaptation and I don't think I quite achieved it in the year I had. I think I just generally like how 'tidy' the Australian system is in terms of organisation and rejuvenation.

What do you see as the pros and cons of these school year structures?
What is the school year structure like in your country (other than Australia, New Zealand, USA)?


  1. Im not sure what they are now, but when I was at school in the UK it was 3 terms with a long 5 to 6 week break July/August/September. I think the long holiday was originally to coincide with the British "summer" and with the annual 2 week holiday closure of most factories and mines/pits.

    I can't remember how long the terms were, but we had a week long half term break in the middle and 2 weeks between terms. That means I was at school for 39/40 weeks...about the same as I am now.

  2. I like the down under way too.
    I found the USA system a long year as well.
    But then we do have the advantage of Christmas beaches and BBQs.

  3. Penny,

    A great summary. I would like to wrap up a school year at Christmas time. The 1.5 - 2 week Christmas break that we have in the U.S. causes havoc with content being retained during a quarter.

    Thanks for the insight! Have a great start to the new year!

  4. I think long summer break with the USA system is linked to our agrarian roots, freeing kids up to work during the farm's most productive months.

    This made sense 100 years ago when a third of the population farmed and many others made their livings with work related to farming. Even around WWII a quarter of the population farmed, but today only 2 percent of the US population is involved in farming; the lowest level since before the civil war.

    It is certainly time for us to take a look at this arrangement, because it was made for reasons other than what is best for student learning. But traditions die hard, and there would be resistance on all fronts.

    For example, many teachers supplement their incomes with second jobs over the summer months. These secondary careers would be harder to come by with shorter breaks.

    Perhaps if we increased the total number of instruction weeks and associated pay, there would be less need for these second jobs in the first place.

  5. Agree with Bill 100% on the farming roots of summer break. Our rural community is proof of the dwindling farming population. We used to have approximately 10 football players who were came from farming families on a team of 45 in 1998. We now have 1.

  6. Thanks for the explanation! It sounds like you have year round schooling but we don't have all schools like that here in SC. I think it sounds great and would have loved it if all the schools were on it and not some. This made child care and vacations a really big mess.

  7. Did not take long to get this post up, well done. Some great comments as well.

  8. I teach at a modified calendar school. We have a 2 week break after each quarter, and the breaks are tacked onto our Winter and Spring breaks. I love it! I look forward to our regular holidays and I like the clean break at the end of each quarter. We still have 180 days of school; it's just spread out over most of the calendar year.

    There are several schools like this in Northern Virginia and DC. I know that there are also a few in Florida. While this calendar might not be for everyone, I'm glad I work in an area that has a few schools with this alternate calendar.

  9. Thank you so much! I have a Skype fiend in Australia and im wondering how stuff works there.

  10. Too much school is bad, the students would get bored


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