Australia's private high schools
Parents are reportedly more satisfied with the quality of education received at Australia's private high schools. Source: Saeed Khan/AFP

As enrollment in Australia’s private primary schools slips, Australia’s private high schools have recorded an almost 70% jump since 2012.

Australia’s private high school enrolments grew from 13.5% in 2012 to 22.9% in 2020, according to recent data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Annual Statistical Report.

By following more than 17,000 Australians each year, the HILDA survey captures data on many aspects of life in Australia.

These include household and family relationships, income and employment, and health and education. other private) schools for the primary years.

It is the only study of its kind in Australia.

“The increase in the number of Australian children going to private high schools coincides with a significant hike in its fees,” wrote Esperanza Vera-Toscano, a senior research fellow at the University of Melbourne, in The Conversation.

“In high school it was 5,477 Australian dollars [in 2012] for Catholic students and A$12,407 for other private schools.”

By 2020, Australia’s private high schools (that are non-Catholic) had increased by 5.3%.

Australia's private high schools

Australia’s private high school enrolments grew from 13.5% in 2012 to 22.9% in 2020. Source: David Gray/AFP

Why are more parents choosing Australia’s private high schools?

Parents with children in private schools at the primary and high school levels rated the quality of education better than their Catholic or public school counterparts, HILDA data foun.

In 2020, public high school parents rate the quality of education of their children as 7.5. The figures are 7.9 for Catholic and 8.5 for private.

“They were also more likely to declare their their children’s overall achievement as ‘excellent’ or ‘above average’ (65.1%, compared to 51.7% in Catholic schools and 47.3% in government schools),” wrote Vera-Toscano.

“Meanwhile, 71.9% of private school parents expected their children to go to university, compared to 67% of Catholic school parents and 47.8% of government school parents.”

This is despite research in Australia and worldwide that found private school students do not achieve higher marks and better university entrance results.

New data by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released earlier this month found the number of students enrolled in government schools dropped from just over 68% in 2002 to to 64.5% last year.

There was a 0.6% decline from 2021 to 2022, with 16,929 fewer students enrolled in public education last year.

Australia's private high schools

Parents reportedly perceive the quality of education Australia’s private high schools to be “excellent” or “above average.” Source: Saeed Khan/AFP

“There’s a perception that non-government schooling is a stronger option … regardless of whether that’s accurate,” said the Grattan Institute’s education programme director, Jordana Hunter, as reported by The Guardian.

“There’s a risk it becomes self-perpetuating and that can skew enrolment characteristics. Governments should be looking at this data and asking themselves ‘why is there this ongoing drift’?”

Pasi Sahlberg, the University of Melbourne professor of educational leadership, said the ABS data were a “direct result of chronic underfunding of public education, worsening teacher workforce crisis, and government policies that have encouraged parents to do ‘shop around’ for better education.”