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How the Education System Works in New Zealand

New Zealand is one of the most hospitable, peaceful and self-sufficient countries globally. In the education sector, the universities are internationally recognized, and on par with most of the globally acclaimed universities. Once enrolled, the student can only look forward to a confident and recognized position in society anywhere in the world.

The ambience for learning is created to perfection and you receive world class teaching topped with the latest technology incorporated into the system. The diverse, multicultural and enthusiastic student population at once makes you feel welcome and proud to be a part of new Zealand’s education system.

The clean, orderly and fresh air of New Zealand beckons you to become a part of it with its wide open spaces and natural scenic greenery. You feel safe and can concentrate on your studies without feeling insecure away from home. It is easy to find suitable accommodation at affordable rates. New Zealanders are a friendly lot and soon make you feel more than welcome. Tuition fees and living costs are quite economical.

Outdoor sports make sure that you soon begin to explore high adrenalin games such as bungee jumping, jet boating, white-water rafting, heliskiing, skiing, snow-boarding, indoor rock climbing, mountain climbing, and trail bike riding. You can enjoy relaxing recreation like scuba diving in marine reserves, bush walking and golf. There are over 400 golf courses.

New Zealand was recently ranked as the world's most peaceful country by the Global Peace Index.

From time immemorial New Zealand has followed a set pattern in education which is on par with the best educational institutes in the world. It follows a State or Public school system that is compulsory, free and tolerant.

New Zealand’s Education System can be classified as follows:

  • Early Childhood Education (under 5 years)
  • Primary Education
  • Intermediate Education
  • Secondary Education
  • Tertiary Education

Prior to stepping into their school life, kids have an option to join Playcenters or Kindergarten between the ages of 3-5, also known as Kohanga Reo. The program for International Student Assessment ranks New Zealand's education as the 7th best in the world. There is a great flexibility regarding the type of school you want to choose for your child.

State, private (or registered or independent) and state integrated schools are the types of schools available for children at New Zealand. School life begins after the child turns 5 years of age. Free education is made available between the ages of 6 to 16 by the New Zealand government itself and is possible with the help of the tax payer’s fund.

While the State and state integrated schools are funded by government, the private schools receive about 25% of fund from the government, and recover the rest of their costs from tuition fees. State integrated schools were earlier private schools and are now "integrated" into the state system under the Private Schools Conditional Integration Act 1975 to ensure that they follow certain norms to preserve and safeguard the quality of the education provided by them. There are 7 schools in New Zealand which are also commonly known as “Middle Schools”. They are quite similar to intermediate schools but here the students spend a longer time in school and are promoted to the Secondary system after they gain more maturity.

Academic year
The academic year in schools starts in late January until mid December, with schools having four terms (and not three as in many other countries). There is a slight variation in dates according to the public holidays, but generally most of the schools follow the same pattern. (summer in NZ is December through March; winter is June through October). There is at least a two-week break before each of the four terms. In summer it is six weeks.

  • Term one - Late Jan /Early Feb to Mid April
  • Term two - Early May to Early July
  • Term three - Late July to Late September
  • Term four - Early October to Mid December

Early childhood education

To make children comfortable in the school environment, many working parents send their children to crèches or play centers before embarking on their school education. They fall in various categories as follows:

  • Licensed Early Childhood Centers (Ages 0 – 5) (usually privately owned)
  • Chartered Early Childhood Centers (Ages 0 – 5) (state funded)
  • Playcenter or Kindergarten (Ages 3 – 5) Kohanga Reo



Primary Schools

According to the New Zealand law, all children aged six years and over need to be at school. They usually begin as soon as they turn five. The first three years of their schooling are termed as junior classes, and they get promoted a grade higher each year. Once they complete junior level, they need to study five more years at primary and intermediate level. At the age of 12 or 13 children are stepped up to secondary school.



Secondary Schools

Secondary school progress through five levels and continues till the age of 16. Free secondary education is sometimes provided for children of New Zealand. They are eligible for a citizenship by the age of 19. The ninth and tenth grades in Secondary school include subjects such as English, Mathematics, Science and Technology, Social Studies, Art, Physical Education, Music and Health Education. Optional subjects such as Economics, History, Geography, Electronics, Sewing, Keyboard skills, Drama, Journalism, French, Japanese and Maori are made available too. Occasionally, other language options are available like Indonesian, Latin, German, Chinese and Samoan. Thus, the last three years of secondary school can be the turning point in your career as you not only learn to know your aptitude in a certain field but you can also choose from the wide range of subjects offered, from photography to farming. The last two years are more suitable to overseas students who wish to continue their studies in New Zealand.



Special schools

You also have special schools for the handicapped children where special care and attention is given to them on a one-on-one basis. Then there are schools which carry on education system with an environment of Maori language and cultural interest.



Examinations & Assessments

There are three NCEA qualifications:

Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3.The National Qualifications Framework (NQF) is benchmarked internationally which makes the NCEA certifications internationally recognized.

The National Certificate in Educational Achievement (NCEA) is New Zealand’s main national qualification for secondary school students.

There are 8 government-funded universities in New Zealand, all of internationally repute and academically world class. You need to pass an entrance exam to qualify for these universities. This common entrance qualification is prescribed by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA). However, these universities often have a tough entrance criteria, since you can gain admission in courses such as medicine and dentistry.

There are 20 polytechnics, which are generally known as Institutes of Technology. They provide a wide range of courses, up to and including degree-level. They more or less follow the same patterns as most of the universities.

English Language Programs and Private Training Institutions - There are plenty of private institutes all over New Zealand that train you in the English Language. You can find most of them located in Auckland for international students. All private language schools are compulsorily registered and accredited by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. You also have roughly 800 private education providers who run courses in specific areas such as computing, designing and business.

Industry Training Organizations
These are small organizations that provide training towards apprenticeships and qualifications in specific industries.

International Education Appeal Authority
The International Appeal Authority is a government office that has the power to deal with the problems of International Students. If you approach the Appeal Authority, you are sure to be aided n solving your problem, provided you can furnish all the necessary authentic details.

The Authority can be contacted in writing at:

The International Education Appeal Authority,
c/- Ministry of Education,
P O Box 1666,
New Zealand.
Fax 64 (4) 499 1327.

Where does your child fit?
Here is a site that allows you to search for details about schools by region. It includes Primary, Intermediate and Secondary schools in both the public and private sectors. http://www.tki.org.nz/e/schools/

Independent schools of New Zealand has an association http://www.isnz.org.nz/ Major Universities and Technical Institutes

Auckland -
University of Auckland
Auckland University of Technology
Manukau Institute of Technology

Hamilton -
University of Waikato

Palmerston North -
Massey University

Wellington -
University of Victoria

Christchurch -
University of Canterbury

Dunedin -
University of Otago

The Education Review Office is the powerful independent body that provides the glue that holds the Primary, Intermediate and Secondary sectors together. This web site is technical but you can use it to search ERO reviews of any school. http://www.ero.govt.nz/ero/publishing.nsf/Content/Home+Page The New Zealand Qualifications Authority - http://www.nzqa.govt.nz/index.html