New Zealand Education System

Mainly the education in New Zealand is a student-centred pathway providing continuous learning progression and choice so that students will have progress every year and their learning at one level sets the foundation for the next steps along a chosen pathway.

The New Zealand’s education system has 3 levels:

  • Early childhood education – from birth to school entry age
  • Primary and secondary education – from 5 to 19 years of age
  • Further education – higher and vocational education

The education system of New Zealand reflects unique and diverse society, which welcomes different abilities, religious beliefs, ethnic groups, income levels and ideas about teaching and learning. Also, the education system in New Zealand is governed and administered by a number of different agencies and providers at different levels. The New Zealand qualifications authority (NZQA) is responsible for quality assurance in the secondary education sector and non-university tertiary education sectors. The briefings of three levels of education system are as follows;

Early Childhood Education (ECE)

Ages 0-5

Early childhood education provides education and care for children before they are old enough to go to school. New Zealand has more than 4000 licensed early childhood education services available, including kindergartens, childcare centres, play centres, home-based care and playgroups. Early learning helps children to be confident and curious about the world. It also helps them do better when they go to school or kura, and can help the child in learning important skills that will help them become strong, happy, and successful in later life. Ece is not compulsory but around 96.8% of children attend early childhood education (ECE). The government subsidizes all children who attend ECE for up to 6 hours a day (a total of 30 hours per week). 20 hours ECE is a higher funding subsidy available for all children aged 3 – 5 years who attend ECE. There are all sorts of early childhood education (ECE) services and kōhanga reo available in New Zealand which are as follows;

  • Kindergartens
  • Education and care services
  • Home-based education and care
  • Te kura (the correspondence school)

Primary and secondary education

Primary and secondary schools are the second level of education. In New Zealand, child’s education is free between the ages of 5 and 19 at state schools (schools that are government owned and funded) if the child is a New Zealand citizen or a permanent resident.

Schooling is compulsory from age 6 to 16. In the majority of schools, any child can start school on the day they turn 5 years old (they do not have to wait until the start of a new school year). However, some schools have a policy of starting children at school together as a group at the start of each term (cohort entry). Most children stay at school until they are around 17. The education system for schools is made up of 13 year levels. In New Zealand the child’s primary education starts at year 1 and goes to year 8 (around 5 to 12 years of age) and child’s secondary education goes from year 9 to year 13 (around 13 to 17 years of age). Students at secondary schools – also known as high schools or colleges – work towards the national certificate of educational achievement (NCEA). Secondary schools also offer some vocational subjects, such as tourism and computing. However, some schools also offer Cambridge international examinations and international baccalaureate programs.

Further education

Technical and vocational education

At senior secondary school level, students may begin to specialize in vocational learning. They can get help into work or further education from a number of programs and institutions.

  • Youth guarantee courses provide students aged 16–19 with an opportunity to study towards ncea level 1-3 or level 1-3 certificates at tertiary providers free of charge. These courses are usually vocationally focused.
  • Trades academies teach trades and technology programs to students in years 11 to 13 (ages 15 to 18). They are run through schools and other providers.
  • Institutes of technology and polytechnics teach professional and vocational education and training from introductory studies to degrees.
  • Industry training organizations represent particular industries (e.g. agriculture, building and construction, motor trade etc.). They offer training and qualifications for those sectors. They funded by the government and industry.
  • Private training establishments offer specific vocational courses at certificate and diploma level (e.g. travel and tourism).

Along with furthern education, New Zealand has 3 wānanga and 8 state funded universities which are described as;


New Zealand has 3 wānanga (state-owned māori teaching and research institutions). They teach according to āhuatanga māori (māori tradition) and tikanga māori (māori custom). They offer certificates, diplomas and degrees. Some teach in specialized areas up to doctorate level.