Education in New Zealand

Education Minister, Hon. Hekia Parata

E ngamana, e ngareo, e ngahau e wha. Tenakoutou, tenakoutou, tenakoutou katoa. Greetings from Aotearoa, New Zealand.

New Zealand has an indigenous people and settler history, a strong commitment to democracy and equality, and high aspirations for all our people. Founded biculturally, we are becoming increasingly multicultural.

Our education system is world class. It is top performing for the majority of our children and young people, and we are on a continuous journey of improvement. Not least to ensure that those who are doing well may do better, but also that we meet the challenge of ensuring that all our young people can be educationally successful. Excellence, and equity, is our key challenge.

We are a small country of just over 4.5 million people, across the vast Pacific Ocean. We must trade to grow our economy, and increase the standard of living for all our people. We are endowed with natural resources.

But our greatest resource is our people. And the greatest potential of our people is to create, innovate, develop, produce and market. And the most important investment we can make is in the education of our people, and in the system that delivers it.
We must make sure that every one of our citizens has the best possible opportunity to learn, achieve, secure qualifications, acquire skills and take pathways to a successful and productive life.

Education has the transformative power to both grow our economy and strengthen the cultural and social backbone of our society.

Our education system comprises 97 per cent publicly funded schools, and three per cent private. We have a very diverse range of schooling options within the system, and significant parental choice. We have single sex schools, and co-educational schools; faith based and secular; total immersion English instruction and total immersion Maori instruction, as well as bilingual options. Our schools range in size from less than ten to over 3,000 students.

Education is free and compulsory from age six to 16 years, but children typically attend from five to 18 years. Early childhood education is not compulsory and is heavily government funded, with approximately 95 per cent of children starting school having participated.

Transitions between secondary and tertiary education, academic and vocational, have clear pathways that value the choices equally between training for a trade and studying for university.
The labour market demands a wide range of skills and we want to make sure that all our students have options and the prospects of employment, career pathways, and high standards of living.

New Zealand’s best students are top in the world. Three out of four students, on average, get the qualifications they need to go on and be successful. New Zealand ranks in the top of the OECD’s Programme of International Student Achievement (PISA), and does well in other international benchmarks such as PIRLS and TIMMS.

In terms of the percentage of public expenditure spent on education, New Zealand ranks second in the OECD. New Zealand is the only country in the OECD where all public spending comes from the central government. As a percentage of GDP it is high at 7.2 per cent – the third highest in the OECD.
While we are top performing for most of our students, we are not for all. Too many of those who are not being well served are those who are Maori, Pasifika, from poorer homes, and/or have special education needs.

Education is the most powerful, most transformative and therefore most critical contribution our government can make to the standard of living of our people and the quality of life of our society.