New Zealand Education – Overview

 Early Childhood Education:

  • Birth to school age children.
  • The government fully funds ECE 20 hours per week for all children aged 3 to 4.
  • ECE licensed centers include:
    • Pre-School (called Kindergarten), which are teacher-led programs
    • Play-centers and playgroups, which can be teacher or parent-led programs
  •  All use a curriculum framework called Te Whariki (this is a metaphor using the Maori word for woven mat). The curriculum focuses on child-centered, play based activities. 
  • The Ministry of Education states that currently there are over 4,000 centers across the country. 

Primary School Education:

  • Most students start primary school on their 5th birthday (Year 0), but it is not compulsory until age 6 (Year 1). 
  • Full primary schools teach years 1 – 8, and contributing primary schools teach years 1 – 6. Students who attend a contributing school, go on to intermediate school for years 7 and 8. 
  • According to the Education Counts site, New Zealand currently has 1,945 primary schools, with enrollment ranging from 10 to 2,000 students. 
  • English-medium primary schools use the New Zealand Curriculum, which focuses on 5 key competencies and 8 learning areas.
  • Maori-medium schools, where at least half the curriculum is taught in Te Reo Maori, use Te Marautanga o Aotearoa. This curriculum has 9 learning areas because it separately teaches Maori language/literature and English language.
    • Interesting note: All of the English-medium schools I visited incorporated some level of Maori words and phrases into their classrooms.

Secondary Education (referred to as college/high school):

  • This is for Years 9 – 13 (ages 13 – 19)
  • For 6 to 16 years old – school is compulsory; 16 to 19 years old – school is optional, depending on the scores from their National Certificate in Educational Achievement (NCEA) and plans to transition to further education, training or a career.
  • According to the Education Counts site New Zealand currently has 374 secondary schools, which includes 25 teen parent units and a few other specialized correspondence-type schools. 
  • The country also has 173 Composite schools, which encompass Years 1 – 15 (years 14 & 15 would be considered tertiary, and include technology, polytechnic, and workplace training programs).

Tertiary Education:

  • Tertiary education covers all education after secondary school, and includes both higher education and vocational training.
  • Beginning January 1, 2018 the Government declared that all New Zealand students, who finish schooling in 2017-18,  can receive their first year of tertiary education (including industry training) fees-free. They also introduced other monetary boosts for student allowances and certain living costs.  The Ministry of Education predicts 80,000 students will use this benefit.