Education in New Zealand

From Academic Kids

Education in New Zealand is nominally free for all primary, intermediate and secondary schooling. However, most schools also ask for a "donation" from parents and often call this a school fee or a "parental contribution".


Educational institutions

Early childhood education

Many children attend some form of early childhood education before they begin school.

  • Playcentre or Kindergarten (Ages 3 - 5)
  • Licensed Early Childhood Centres (Ages 0 - 5) (usually privately owned)
  • Chartered Early Childhood Centres (Ages 0 - 5) (state funded)

Primary and secondary education

Primary and Secondary education is compulsory for students between the ages of 6 and 16, however, most students start at age 5 and remain in school for the full 13 years.

While there is overlap in some schools, primary school ends at Year 8 and secondary school at Year 13. The last two years of primary school are normally considered intermediate school instead of primary school, and is normally a school in itself, leaving primary school to end at Year 6. Outside of the following categories, many private schools, state area schools and state integrated schools take students from Years 0 to 13, or Years 7 to 13.

There are three types of schools: state, private (or registered) and integrated schools. State schools receive government funding; private schools do not. Integrated schools are private schools that are "integrated" into the state system under the Private Schools Conditional Integration Act 1975 [1] ( "on a basis which will preserve and safeguard the special character of the education provided by them".

Years of schooling

New Zealand has recently moved towards a system where school levels are identified by the year number. Before this, a system of Forms, Standards and Juniors was used, and still is used at some schools. Many independent schools still use them.

The years are numbered from 1 to 13. Primary school goes up to year 6, intermediate school finishes at year 8 and secondary school is the remaining five years of schooling.

Under the old system of Forms, Standards and Juniors, there were two Junior years followed by four Standard years in primary school, followed by seven Forms. Forms 1 and 2 were in intermediate school and the remaining five were in secondary school. A summarized table of old to new system conversions is below:

YearOld system
1Junior 1
2Junior 2
3Standard 1
4Standard 2
5Standard 3
6Standard 4
7Form 1
8Form 2
9Form 3
10Form 4
11Form 5
12Form 6
13Form 7

Types of schools

Most schools cater for either primary, intermediate or secondary school students:

  • Years 1 - 6: Primary School (Ages 5 - 10)
  • Years 7 - 8: Intermediate School (Ages 11 - 12)
  • Years 9 - 13: Secondary School (Ages 13 - 17)

However, some schools cater for students across two or more of these groups. These are rarer than schools which teach the groups above. Area schools are generally found in rural areas, where there are not enough students to run three separate schools productively. A list of these types of schools, and the years they cater for, is below.

  • Years 1 - 8: Full Primary School (Ages 5 - 12)
  • Years 7 - 10: Middle School (Ages 11-14)
  • Years 7 - 13: Intermediate/Secondary School (Ages 11 - 17)
  • Years 1 - 13: Area schools (Ages 5 - 17)
  • Preschool - Year 13: The Correspondence School (Preschool - Age 17)

Secondary qualifications

The current national secondary school qualification is the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA). Most students will sit examinations and internal assessments under this system over the last three years of secondary school. NCEA has three levels, one for each of the last three years of secondary school.

Some schools, which refused to accept NCEA as a new qualification in 2002, decided instead to offer overseas examinations, namely the General Certificate of Education, General Certificate of Secondary Education and the International Baccalaureate Diploma. The most common board for the GCE exams is the Cambridge International Examinations Board. For these exams, O-level is sat in year 11, AS-level in year 12 and A-level in year 13.

Secondary school qualifications have gone through several changes over the past few decades:

  • 1986 - NZ University Entrance Examination (Year 12) abolished, and replaced with the Sixth Form Certificate. Entrance Certificate now only awarded those who marginally failed to win a University Bursary. Bursars (University Bursary) and Scholars (Entrance Scholarship) unaffected since they won higher awards. A private external examination called the Sixth Form External Examination was founded for those who wished not to enter for the Sixth Form Certificate.
  • 1989 - NZ University Entrance Scholarships Examination (Year 13) abolished and Entrance Scholarships now awarded to the top 3-4% of Bursars. A private scholarships examination (later to be called the NZEST Scholarships Examination) was founded for those who wished to be examined separately at the old University Scholarship level.
  • 2002 to 2004 - School Certificate, Sixth Form Certificate and NZ University Bursary gradually replaced by NCEA.
  • 2004 - NZ University Entrance Scholarships replaced by the New Zealand Scholarship Examination. The Higher School Certificate abolished.

Tertiary education

There are several branches of tertiary education in New Zealand.

For non-private institutions, see also: state sector organisations in New Zealand

Colleges of education (Teachers' Colleges)

Partial list of historical or currently existing colleges of education:

See: State sector organisations in New Zealand (current list)

Most colleges of education in New Zealand in the past 30 years have gradually consolidated (for example, Ardmore with Auckland), with the trend in the last 15 years to consider and effect mergers with universities closely allied to them, for example, the Hamilton and Palmerston North colleges amalgamated with Waikato and Massey respectively.

In the 2004-2005 period, the Auckland and Wellington colleges amalgamated with Auckland and Victoria respectively. The remaining standaline colleges are at Christchurch and Dunedin.


For a list of polytechnics, see: state sector organisations in New Zealand

Private Training Establishments


See Wananga
for a list of wānanga, see: state sector organisations in New Zealand


All of the following universities, except for the Auckland University of Technology and Waikato University, used to be university colleges of the former University of New Zealand.


For tertiary education

Funding for tertiary education in New Zealand is through a combination of government subsidies and student fees. The government funds approved courses by a tuition grant based on the number of enrolled students in each course and the amount of study time each course requires. Courses are rated on an equivalent full-time Student (EFTS) basis. Students enrolled in courses can access Student Loans and Student Allowances to assist with fees and living costs.

Student loans

The Student Loan Scheme is available to all New Zealand permanent residents and can cover course fees, course related expenses and can also provide a weekly living allowance for full time students. The loan must be repaid at a rate dependent on income and repayments are normally recovered via the income tax system by wage deductions. Low income earners and students in full time study can have the interest on their loans written off.

Student Allowances, which are non-refundable grants to students of limited means, are means tested and the weekly amount granted depends on residential and citizenship qualifications, age, location, marital status, dependent children as well as personal, spousal or parental income.

Funding for Tertiary Institutions has been criticised recently due to high fees and funding not keeping pace with costs or inflation. Some also point out that high fees are leading to skills shortages in New Zealand as high costs discourage participation and graduating students seek well paying jobs off shore to pay for their student loans debts. As a result, education funding has been undergoing an ongoing review in recent years.

See also

External links


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