Overseas school students numbers on the rise

School enrolments have grown across all sectors, with a notable rise in Full-Fee Paying Overseas Students.

Total school enrolments reached a record high of 4,086,998 across 9,629 schools in 2023, increasing by 1.1 percent or 44,486 students since 2022, according to data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The number of Full-Fee Paying Overseas Students contributed to the higher growth rate, increasing by more than a third (36.6 per cent) from 2022 to 21,124 students. Between 2019-2022 there was a drop of 41.9 per cent, primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Mell Plumb, ABS head of education statistics, said: “This is not surprising given the large increase in net overseas migration seen in 2022-23, the highest net migration on record.”

The rise in Full-Fee Paying Overseas Students has also been reflected in boarding schools around the country. The Australian Boarding Schools Assocation (ABSA) census data shows a sharp decline in boarders from 2018 (20,642) and 2019 (19,793). Boarding numbers fell further still in 2020, to 14,634 in ABSA member schools. While numbers have not returned to pre-pandemic levels, they are trending up, with 20,467 boarders recorded in 2023.

Independent schools recorded the highest growth rate in enrolments for the seventh consecutive year at 3.9 per cent, followed by Catholic schools, up 1.4 per cent, and government schools, up 0.3 per cent.

Independent Schools Australia (ISA) Chief Executive Officer Graham Catt said, “Every parent deserves the right to choose the best school for their child and family. While Independent schools have seen the strongest growth, all three school sectors are critical to delivering the best educational outcomes for Australian children.

“It’s only through collaboration through all sectors and government that we will achieve genuine reform in education.”

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander school student enrolments continued to rise to 264,935, up by 9,139 (3.6 per cent) from the previous year. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students now make up 6.5 per cent of all school students.

The Apparent Retention Rate, which is the estimated proportion of secondary students staying at school until Year 12, fell for the sixth consecutive year to 79.1 per cent, 1.4 percentage points lower than 2022. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students the Apparent Retention Rate was 55.9 per cent, marginally higher than in 2013 (55.1 per cent).

In 2023, there were 311,655 full-time equivalent teaching staff across Australian schools, an increase of 1.4 per cent from 2022.

“The average student-to-teacher ratio across Australian schools was 13.1 students to one teacher, the same as in 2022. Independent schools had a lower student-to-teacher ratio (11.8 students to one teacher) than government and Catholic schools (13.4 students to one teacher),” Ms Plumb said.

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