Education in New Zealand

New Zealand’s education system has 3 levels and reflects our unique and diverse society.

New Zealand’s education system has 3 levels:

Our education system reflects our unique and diverse society. We welcome different abilities, religious beliefs, ethnic groups, income levels and ideas about teaching and learning. We have processes in place to give our students consistent, high-quality education at all levels.

Edcounts website has directories of schools, ECE and further education providers in New Zealand.

Early childhood education

Children can take part in early childhood education (ECE) from birth to school entry age. ECE is not compulsory but around 95% of children go to an ECE service. All ECE services in New Zealand plan learning using the national curriculum Te Whāriki.

Between the ages of 3 and 5, a child can go to an ECE service for 20 hours a week for free. This funding is called 20 hours ECE.

Primary and secondary schools

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

Schooling is compulsory from age 6 to 16. Your 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). Most children stay at school until they are around 17.

The education system for schools is made up of 13 year levels. Your child’s primary education starts at Year 1 and goes to Year 8 (around 5 to 12 years of age). Your child’s secondary education goes from Year 9 to Year 13 (around 13 to 17 years of age).

Further education

Further education includes higher and vocational education. Courses range from programmes to help students into work, to certificates and diplomas, to postgraduate study and research. Full and part time distance learning options are also available from some further education providers.

The government partially funds state further education providers. Students pay about 30% of the cost of their courses. New Zealand students can borrow a loan from the government to pay for their courses until they are earning. Further education providers can be state or privately owned.

The Careers New Zealand website has information about programmes offered by further education providers.


New Zealand has 8 state-funded universities. They each offer degrees in a large choice of subjects and have strengths in specialised professional degrees. All are well recognised internationally. They work with universities in other countries on research and teaching programmes, and with the business community in New Zealand and overseas on research and development.

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