Explore the New Zealand Education System

8 minute read
New Zealand Education System

The land of sweeping mountains, golden beaches and stretches of blue, New Zealand is a country straight out of a fairytale. Not just its breathtaking scenery but its cosmopolitan lifestyle, world-class education and global exposure make it a desirable study destination. Post studying in New Zealand, you can gain high-quality education at affordable costs as well as the best global exposure in your chosen field of study. From research-oriented programs to immense research opportunities, the universities in New Zealand are amongst the top-ranked academic institutions in the world. Are you wondering how the education system of New Zealand is at par compared to the US, the UK and the like? This blog seeks to explore the New Zealand education system, its salient features and what sets it apart from other countries around the world.

About New Zealand Education System

The education system that has been set in place in New Zealand is student-centred and emphasizes life-long learning. The New Zealand Education System has been ranked 3rd in the world as per the Second edition of Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Worldwide Educating for the Future Index 2018.

New Zealand Education System

Following a primary, intermediate and secondary schooling structure, the academic apparatus followed in the country is divided into five main levels. There are various stages of learning based on the age of the individual. Here are the main schooling levels of the New Zealand Education System read carefully if you are looking to study abroad in any university.

Early Childhood2-5 years
Primary School5-10 years
Intermediate School11-12 years
Secondary School13-18 years
Tertiary Education18+

Admission Intakes in New Zealand

Universities in New Zealand follow two major admission intakes, i.e. for January and July with some institutions open for admission in the months of September and November. Actual admission intakes might vary depending on the course and university.

Early Childhood Education

In the New Zealand Education System, Early Childhood Education (ECE) stage is the pre-primary schooling phase as it comes before a child is old enough to join a primary school. Early learning plays a crucial role in adding to a child’s curiosity towards learning. Though it is not a compulsory part of education, a larger percentage of children in New Zealand attend pre-primary schools for 20-22 hours per week. For the initial week, their education is funded by the government to ensure that equal education is provided to all. 

This first stage of New Zealand Education System aims to build a child’s abilities and skills, nurtures them to adapt to new situations and prepare them for the challenges that lay ahead when they join primary school. New Zealand has a large number of licensed early education providers like kindergartens, play centres and home-based centres. This is an important part of a child’s formative years as effective early childhood education lays foundation for a healthy process of learning by helping the children to develop their curiosity and creativity. 

Interesting Fact: There are Early Childhood Education (ECE) Services offered in New Zealand and are actually subsided by the government for children attending an ECE service referred to as Kōhanga Reo for more than 6 hours a day.

Primary Schooling

Primary schooling is considered as the first step into the world of formal education. New Zealand Education System has laid a quintessential emphasis on every individual’s education right as it helps in guiding them towards a better life. Every child gets free primary education in the state schools provided that he/she is a permanent resident of New Zealand. This level of schooling is guided by the disciplines and study areas designed by New Zealand’s National Curriculum and include subjects like Arts, English, Physical Education, Mathematics, Sciences and Technology. Basic skills like reading, writing and simple calculations are taught to children and they are regularly evaluated according to a set standard of assessment. This phase works towards instilling basic life skills in children to build a great foundation for their further education.

Interesting Fact: The primary school starts at Year 1 to Year 8 (including intermediate school from Year 7 to Year 8) and the primary and secondary is considered as compulsory.

Intermediate Schooling

The bridging years between primary education and secondary education refer to intermediate schooling stage in the New Zealand Education System. These two or three years of schooling are focused on enhancing basic skills of children and making them more conversant with the ways of the world. This level of education is offered by primary schools or in some cases by intermediate schools. These years emphasize on helping students find their interests and develop their potentials to ensure that they make the right decision when choosing a field later in their careers. 

Interesting Fact: Intermediate Schooling in the New Zealand Education System is often considered a part of the primary schooling stage.

Secondary Education

High schoolers or students enrolled in secondary schools work to achieve the National Certificate of Education Achievement (NCEA) which is the main high school qualification under the New Zealand Education system. Most secondary schools in the country are state-owned and follow the national curriculum while there are some state-integrated schools and private schools. These years move towards the conclusion of the schooling phase. Along with the major qualification, various vocational courses and qualifications are often offered to help students explore a diverse range of fields they are interested in and then choose for the next phase of their education accordingly. These qualifications prepare students for the challenges of the professional world. Choosing the right course and vocational degree is the key in this phase as it forms the base for future educational endeavours like a Bachelor’s degree or a diploma degree. This is the final step of schooling and provides the impetus for students to join the next phase of higher degree-level education.

Interesting Fact: For those who can’t attend regular schools, Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu (Te Kura) is a correspondence school which imparts early childhood, primary as well as secondary education to students through multimedia technology and online learning. It is also an open learning school for those planning to explore a few courses which aren’t offered at your school.

Interesting Fact: There are different types of provisions after the senior secondary school level for polytechnic courses, vocational and technical education like Youth Guarantee Courses, Trades Academies, Institutes of Technology, Industrial Training Organisations, etc.

Local Schools

There are several local schools in the country and students visit schools close to where they live. Schools in New Zealand follow a rule called ‘Zoning’. That means if a child lives in the area of the school, they are guaranteed to get a spot in the school. If you wish to apply to a school that is outside your area, you can apply to the school but your seat isn’t guaranteed. 

State, State Integrated, and Private Schools

Most schools in New Zealand are run by the state. These schools follow national standards and are non-religious. State integrated schools are special schools. They are also funded by the state and teach the national curriculum. But they have a set of their own rules and teach specific philosophies and religions. Private schools are partly funded by the government but are also run through charging parents fees. They have their own program and curriculum.

National Curriculum

The National Curriculum covers subjects for primary and secondary schools. They also cover standards that students need to reach in these subjects. Primary education focuses on foundational learning and competencies in numeracy and literacy. At the secondary level, you learn a broad and balanced curriculum with specialisation in year 11-13.

Tertiary Education

At the tertiary education stage, higher-level degrees which are research-oriented and skill-based are offered by universities and colleges in New Zealand. The country is home to 8 state-funded universities, 16 Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs) and multiple Private Training Establishments (PTT). PPT programs are mostly specialized vocational degrees while universities offer courses that familiarize students with the professional world and allow students to undertake further educational qualifications like postgraduate degrees and doctorates spread across a varied array of specializations and subject areas.

Interesting Fact: The QS University Rankings 2021 featured 8 universities of New Zealand under Top 100 for at least one subject.

Now that you have read everything about New Zealand Education System, you may like to watch this short ‘study in New Zealand’ video that points out several benefits of New Zealand education.

Top Universities under New Zealand Education System

The universities and colleges in New Zealand offer globally recognized degrees spread across a wide range of fields and specialisations. New Zealand is becoming increasingly popular amongst international students as its academic institutions have consistently ranked amongst the top universities. Enlisted below are the world-class and top-ranked universities in the world which you must consider if you are planning to pursue higher studies there:

New Zealand Education System Ranking

The education system of New Zealand has been globally known for great quality. 

  • In 2019, New Zealand topped the list of English-speaking countries for the future ranking. 
  • All 8 universities of New Zealand featured in QS Ranking 2019.
  • The country’s higher education system was ranked 16th in the world

Fees and Scholarships Extended by New Zealand Education System

Studying in New Zealand is not only a great opportunity but also provides education with affordable costs. While the universities decide the fees of their courses, the average tuition fee costs from NZ$22, 000 to NZ$30,000 a year for bachelor’s degree. The average tuition fees for masters in New Zealand is between NZ$25,000 and NZ$35,000 a year.

Teaching Style

New Zealand offers a great study environment for students. They use highly personalized learning procedures with great teaching techniques and environment. The student teacher ratio in their schools is smaller than other western countries. New Zealand was the first country to create a code of practise for international students in classroom and outside of it. 

Want to know more? Explore Countries with Best Education System!


Does New Zealand have a good educational system?

The New Zealand education system is very diverse and one of the best in the world. The system has maintained excellent literacy standards and has ranked consistently well according to global standards.

Is education free in NZ?

Education is free in New Zealand state schools. Although, those wanting to pursue an education in New Zealand must be prepared to pay for school uniforms, stationery, and extracurricular activities.

Why New Zealand has the best education system?

It can be said that New Zealand has the best education system as the country has a low pupil-to-teacher ratio. A ratio of 1:15, which the New Zealand education system has, is one of the lowest in the world.

Thus, the meticulously designed New Zealand Education System has its essential focus on imparting high-quality education, nurturing the interests and skills of every individual and emphasising on skill development and life-long learning. If you want to pursue your higher education in New Zealand, our Leverage Edu mentors are here to guide you throughout the admission process of your dream university ensuring that you send an impressive application and get successfully shortlisted! Register today for a free counselling session with us today!

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