My sons are in the Australian education system, while my nephew attends school in the US. Some differences surprised me.

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My sons are in the Australian education system, while my nephew attends school in the US. Some differences surprised me.
The author says the one thing that unites American and Australian students is their dislike for homework.Courtesy of the author
  • I have spent time in the US and Australia and have seen the differences in schooling.
  • During a recent trip to visit family in Texas I was able to see an American school from the inside.
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I live in Australia with my partner and twin sons, and on a recent family trip to Texas was able to experience school life in the US for the first time.

My nephew Cooper invited me to lunch with him at his elementary school in San Antonio. The lunch invitation felt foreign to me — I had never eaten lunch with my children in their 12 years of schooling and was surprised it was a regular occurrence in the US.

Lunchtime is an entirely different experience in the 2 countries

We were given special security passes and invited to the cafeteria to meet Cooper, where we sat on a stage overlooking the rest of the cafeteria.

With a prime view of the cafeteria, I was amazed at how it differed from Australia. Students lined up to get their school lunches (it was Enchilada Wednesday — which is popular in Texas), sat on assigned tables with their teachers, and spent their whole time seated at the table. I don't think my sons would have enjoyed not being able to run around and play sports.

In Australia, there are no school cafeterias. Children bring their lunch, eat outside, and play with their friends when they finish eating.

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My sons often brought their lunch home from school as they preferred to spend the lunch break playing with their friends during the lunch break to eating. They always told my wife and me, "We don't have time to eat!"

There was more school pride in my nephew's school in Texas

Walking Cooper's school grounds, the sense of school pride was evident. The school mascot was on display; there were banners throughout the school, and lots of school events were being promoted.

While some Aussie students are proud of their school, it is nothing compared to what I saw in the US. There are no school mascots, no banners, few school events, and, to be honest, a lot less school spirit.

National pride displayed by students also differs. Australians don't have to cite a Pledge of Allegiance or any oath, and not all schools raise the Australian national flag.

In Australia, there are more term breaks but also more school days

The Australian school year is divided into four semesters, beginning in January and ending in December, resulting in more term breaks.

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Despite more breaks, the Australian academic year is longer, around 200 days of school, compared to about 175 days in Texas.

Our summer break is about six weeks, and there isn't a summer camp program to send children away to. My American friends are always shocked that parents must entertain their children for the entire summer, but I enjoyed having extended family time — though it was a relief when school resumed.

My nephew had more emphasis on sports in the US

My sons attend a public school, and their school sports are played mid-week, often in the early morning. They play their matches with no crowds, cheerleaders, or any atmosphere. The sports teams are coached by a solitary coach, usually a math, English, or history teacher, who coaches the team as a voluntary add-on to their regular teaching duties. Often, students are required to organize their own training.

In 2021, my son's school made the state soccer championships, and I went to offer support. Even though it was a state championship, less than 20 people were in attendance.

My brother-in-law is a Texas high school basketball coach. In stark reality to Australia, this is a full-time job, and he has a support staff of assistants. He spends his days (and nights) planning, strategizing, scouting opposition teams, and conducting extensive training sessions.

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I went to a Friday night game and was shocked by the size of the stadium, the number of people in attendance, the cheerleaders, and the pomp and fanfare accompanying the game. I found myself cheering loudly; it was such a vast difference from back home.

I really enjoyed the atmosphere and felt my sons would have reveled in playing in similar conditions. I can only imagine what a high school Texas football game would be like.

Despite the differences in their schooling between the two countries, one thing unites my sons and nephew — they all hate doing homework.

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