The three main education providers are the State Government (1613 schools), Catholic Education (484 schools) and the Independent schools sector (692 schools). Government schools are often called State Schools or Public Schools. Non-government schools are often called Private Schools.
Most Private schools have a religious affiliation, but some are non-denominational. All Victorian State schools are non-denominational.
Most Victorian Government Schools are co-educational, however there are some single sex Government schools at the Secondary level. In the Private sector there are co-educational, as well as single-sex schools, at both Primary and Secondary level.
Children in Victoria have one year in Prep; six years in Primary school (Year 1 to Year 6) and six years in Secondary school (Year 7 to Year 12). Some schools offer a Pre-Prep year. Not many Government schools are combined Primary and Secondary schools, but some Catholic schools are and many Private schools.
Victorian Government schools welcome enrolments for children who turn five years of age by April 30 of the year in which they start school and most begin taking enrolments in May for the following year. Each Private school sets its own policy on starting age and when they take enrolments. All Victorian children must attend school between the ages of 6 and 15 years inclusive (unless an exemption is granted).
Schools tailor their education programs based on the following Victorian Department of Education and Training Essential Learning Standards: Prep to Year 2 focus mainly on foundational literacy and numeracy skills and development of physical, personal and social capacities. Standards are written for English, Mathematics, Health and Physical Education, The Arts and Interpersonal Development and ICT. In years 3–4 students are expected to also achieve Standards in Science, the Humanities, Thinking Processes, Design, Creativity and Technology, Personal Learning and Civics and Citizenship. In years 5-8 Standards are introduced in the remaining domains of Languages, History, Geography, Economics and Communication. In Year 9-10 schools construct programs which include: Each of the disciplines; a strong focus on developing the full range of interdisciplinary and physical, personal and social knowledge, skills and behaviours; and the capacity for students to pursue pathway-related studies which meet their needs, and connect with programs the school provides in Years 11–12.
Students in Years 11-12 can study for the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) or for the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL). About half of Year 10 students undertake some VCE units. The VCE is recognised internationally, and is generally required to study at university. In the VCE students can choose from more than 46 languages and more than 90 other studies. Thirty of these studies are Vocational Education Training (VET) programmes, such as hospitality, agriculture, information technology or engineering. The VCAL is a hands-on education option, offering practical work-related experience and learning. Students who do the VCAL are likely to be interested in going on to training at TAFE institutes, doing an apprenticeship, or getting a job after finishing school. Each school decides what selection of studies it will offer. There are opportunities to undertake some studies outside of the school a student attends.
Language subjects are called Languages Other Than English (LOTE). Studying one or more languages is part of the school curriculum. Students can also learn languages in after-hours schools.
There are Special Needs Schools for children with disabilities in both the Government and Private sector in Victoria. Some general schools have programs for Special Needs students on their campuses.
Victorian schools which have an alternative philosophical approach to education, such as Steiner or Montessori, are mainly Private schools, but there are some Government schools that have an alternative school alongside their traditional school.
There are a small number of schools dedicated to a particular area of learning, such as performing arts and music. Many schools also provide facilities and courses that cater to students talented in a particular area. Some Government schools in Victoria offer a Select Entry Acceleration Learning (SEAL) programme, where students finish Secondary school more quickly.
There are a small number of Selective Government Secondary schools. Students must achieve a very high standard in entrance exams.
Many Independent and Catholic schools offer scholarships to students for academic excellence. Some also offer scholarships to students who display excellence in other areas.
The Victorian government provides education for students in remote areas or those unable to attend school, or who want to study subjects not offered at their school.
There are Boarding schools in the Private school sector at Primary and Secondary level.
International students can study in a variety of schools in Victoria.
Most schools expect students to wear uniforms. Uniforms are usually unique to the school.
There are four school terms in Victoria, with the main holidays over summer Christmas period. All Government schools follow a set of annually determined term dates. Private school term dates can vary a little from these and from each other.