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New Zealand is known for its scenic beauty. There is abundant beauty and diversity in scenery, lifestyle and culture. International students can expect a high standard of education and living conditions. English being the everyday language of New Zealanders, there is strong English Language support for international students. The institutions are diverse in size and location and offer a wide range of general and specialist courses. New Zealand has a British-style tradition of quality education.

Education System   

New Zealand has an international reputation as a provider of quality education. It offers a safe learning environment with excellent study opportunities and support services for international students. Courses are available for academic, professional and vocational studies at universities, polytechnics, colleges of education, secondary schools and private training establishments.   


In New Zealand courses are available for academic, professional and vocational studies at universities, polytechnics, colleges, secondary schools and private training establishments. There are also a number of English Language Institutes and private English Language Schools. The following sections provide an overview of the New Zealand education system.

Many international students enrol at secondary schools for senior studies in Years 1113, aged 1518 years in preparation for tertiary studies in New Zealand or in other English-speaking countries. New Zealand secondary schools provide a sound education to students aged 13-18 years. Some schools have classes for students aged 11 and 12 as well. Most secondary schools are government-established but there are also a number of other schools that have special philosophical or religious traditions. These schools are either private or integrated schools. Integrated schools were privately funded in the past, but are now government funded.



  • Primary Ages       :       5-12  Form 2

  • Secondary Ages   :     13-18   Form 3-7

  • After 3 years of secondary education a school certificate is given and the students join polytechnics and other specialized professional education centers.

  • After 5 years of secondary education the students appear for university exams

General information 

New Zealand has a superb education system and qualifications gained here are accepted as equal to the best in the world. For more than one hundred years it has had a state system which at the primary, intermediate and secondary levels has been free, secular and compulsory. At the same time there is a strong degree of tolerance which enables communities to build and operate private schools along religious or cultural lines.
Schooling is compulsory from age 6 to 16, however, most students begin school aged 5. All schools follow the NZ Curriculum.

Most New Zealand children begin their formal education before primary school.  Early childhood education is available to children under five years old through a wide range of services, most of which are administered by voluntary agencies with government assistance.

The Education Act 1964 and subsequent amending legislation provides for free education in state primary and secondary schools, and attendance is compulsory until the age of 16 years (announced 1991) to take effect from 1 January 1993.



English as a second language

Many schools provide extra English tuition for students who do not speak it as their first language.

Corporal punishment

Teachers are not allowed to hit, cane, slap or in any way physically punish students.


Many secondary schools have a school uniform. This may be a blazer and tie or a school sweatshirt - it's up to the school to decide. In some schools year 13 students don't have to wear the school uniform

Schooling levels

Primary (generally from age of five to ten years)
Intermediate (usually from the age of 11 to 12 years)
Secondary (usually from the age of 13 to 17 years)
Tertiary (usually from 17/18 years onwards)

The system identifies levels according to a students' number of years of schooling. A child who starts school for the first time between 1 January and the July roll count is classified as being in Year 1. After the first year, the student's year of schooling is increase by one at the start of every school year.

New Zealand Primary Schools.

New Zealand law requires all children aged six years and over to be at school. Most begin as soon as they turn five. For the first three years children are in junior classes, moving up a grade each year. After leaving the juniors, most children have six more years at primary or intermediate level where the curriculum covers English language (oral and written, reading, handwriting and spelling), mathematics, science, social sciences, the arts (including music), technology, and physical health and well-being. At intermediate levels, workshop craft and home economics are also studied. Maori language and culture is also taught widely in schools. Schools operate competitive sports programmes, mainly in cricket, athletics, netball, basketball, rugby and soccer. At the age of 12 or 13 children move to secondary school.The school day usually starts at 9.00am and finishes at 3.00pm. Breaks (intervals) occur at mid-morning, lunchtime and mid-afternoon.


NZ school system - Intermediate schools

Most children in their seventh and eight years of schooling attend a separate intermediate school, unless they live in a rural area. In some rural areas "area" or "composite" schools combine primary, intermediate and secondary schooling. Intermediate schools are sometimes called Middle Schools or Junior High Schools.

The purpose of Intermediate schools is to provide for the particular needs of young adolescents ... They have the advantage of bringing together and working with the largest group of Year 7 and 8 students. This enables them to provide a range of specialist opportunities that may not be possible for other types of schooling. In addition, school resources are selected and purchased solely for students who attend that school and there is therefore a greater chance of sufficiency and variety.

New Zealand Secondary Schools.

       New Zealand has some 440 secondary schools (also referred to as high schools,grammar schools and colleges) which are state, integrated or private, and which offer a wide range of subjects. Schools can set their  own  curriculum objectives within the national guidelines set by the Ministry of Education. Most secondary schools are state established but there are also a number of other schools that have special philosophical or religious 

      traditions. These schools are either private or integrated schools.    
  Students study for 5 years at secondary 
school (also known as high  
  schools   and colleges) beginning in Year 9 and finishing at the end of Year   
Students are normally aged 13 years when they begin secondary school   
  and finish when they are about 18 years of age. There are 440 secondary  
  schools throughout New Zealand. Although the largest schools have around  
  2000 students the average school size is about 1000 students.The school  
  day is about half an hour longer than the primary school day.

Teritary Education

New Zealand's tertiary education sector includes many different types of educational institutions including:

  • Universities

  • Polytechnics

  • Colleges of Education

  • Private Training Establishments (PTEs)

Area or composite schools 

which are usually based in rural areas, combine primary, intermediate and secondary schooling at one location.
Students with physical or other disabilities may enrol either at regular schools or at a special school. The Ongoing and Reviewable Resourcing Schemes (ORRS) were introduced in 1997 to assist individuals with very high or high special education needs. The schemes fund extra teaching, specialist programming, therapy and education support for up to 7000 children. These students are not summarised separately in the following tables but are included in the regular class totals.
Homeschooling is possible for those who prefer it, on the condition that a standard of education similar to that available in a registered school is provided. At 1 July 2000 there were 5,877 students involved in homeschooling. 
The Correspondence School provides education for students who cannot attend a school because they live in remote or inaccessible areas, because they are overseas, or because of illness or other special reasons.
In the school sector an adult is defined as a student who is aged 19 years or over on 1 January of a year in which they attend school.


New Zealand has seven universities:

Each university offers courses in the arts, sciences and commerce and specialises in other areas.

Each university sets outs the courses offered for the years in its "calendar", which become available for purchase around December each year from bookshops. The university year runs from March to November. Term dates vary between universities.

Each university has its own requirements for entry. 

All university students must be able to speak and write in English - some universities have a set level of competency.


New Zealand has 25 polytechnics. They offer a range of internationally recognised qualifications as full-time, part-time, night-time or weekend courses. Many of the courses focus on business, trade or technology skills. Many of the courses are not offered at universities, for example plumbing and gasfitting or hairdressing. Polytechnics offer diploma and degree courses.

Each polytechnic has a prospectus that describes its courses and fees.

Colleges of Education

Colleges of Education (known as "teachers" colleges) train people to become teachers in early childhood education,  primary and secondary schools. There are colleges in Auckland, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin. 

Private Training Establishments

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority has accredited around 800 private training establishments. They offer a wide range of programmes, which lead to students obtaining nationally recognised qualifications. These include English Language Schools. 


Types of Schools

State Schools.

Most schools are state (government) or public schools fully owned and administered by the Ministry of Education.

Integrated Schools.

Schools which have been integrated into the state system but have kept their traditional religious and/or philosophical focus.

Private Schools.

Privately owned and operated schools where all students are required to pay tuition fees. A portion of the teachers salaries is paid by the Government. These schools are also known as Independent Schools.

All schools teach the same or very similar subjects and curriculum as set by the Ministry of Education  and all schools are regularly reviewed and audited by the Ministry. All schools can accept international students and have their own international student policies.



Home schooling

Homeschooling is available for parents who want to educate their children at home provided they maintain a standard of education equivalent to that of a registered school. Parents need to obtain approval from the Ministry of Education to homeschool their children during the years of compulsory schooling (between 6-16 years), and are given an annual grant to help with the cost of learning materials.

At 1 July 2000 there were 5,877 homeschoolers recorded on the Ministry of Education's homeschooling database, which represented less than 1 percent of total school enrolments. These students belonged to 3,309 families.

Correspondence School

This school provides distance learning for more than 18,000 students across New Zealand.Students may live a long way from their nearest school, live overseas, study  with correspondence school for medical reasons or have special needs. Secondary students may also enrol in specific subjects if these are not available at thei regular school.

Correpondence school provides over 300 courses from new entrants to adults seeking to continue education at secondary level . They also offer programmes in early childhood and some specialist adult education courses, such as English for speakers of other languages. 

Number of Students by Region

The largest percentage roll growth occurred in Auckland and Nelson/Marlborough where rolls increased by 2.1% (4,390 students) and 0.9% (210 students) respectively. The Auckland Region continues to have the largest increase in terms of student numbers. In the five years since March 1996, the school population in the Auckland Region has risen by 21,451 students (nearly 11%).

The greatest percentage decrease in rolls occurred in Southland and the West Coast Region, where rolls fell by 2.2% (321 students) and 2.1% (129 students) respectively. In terms of student numbers, Manawatu/Wanganui sustained the greatest decrease - 566 students (1.3%) since March 1999.


International Students

Overseas students who wish to study at a New Zealand school can get information about fees, courses of study and academic entry requirements from the New Zealand Embassy or High Commission in their home country. They can also apply directly to the school they wish to attend. 

Academic entrance requirements and fees are set by individual schools. Some schools allow for annual fees to be paid by installment.

Student permits and visas

A foreign student must have a student permit to study in a New Zealand school for three months or longer. The New Zealand Immigration Service (NZIS) is the government authority responsible for issuing New Zealand entry visas and permits to study here. 

Information on immigration regulations and requirements is available from New Zealand Embassies and High Commissions overseas. This information is also available from the New Zealand Immigration Service, which has offices in some main city centres in New Zealand and 15 offices in other countries. 


Students applying for enrolment from overseas need a written guarantee of suitable accommodation before a student visa can be granted. They must also be able to show that they have enough funds to support them during their stay in New Zealand.

Usually schools offering study places will be able to make home stay arrangements for students, or they may provide hostel or boarding accommodation at the school.

Deciding on a school

Most children attend the school closest to where they live. These are usually listed in the Yellow Pages of the telephone directory. Parents and caregivers can enroll their children at any state school of their choice. However, if a school has too many children wishing to enroll, the Ministry of Education may allow a school to operate an enrolment scheme to prevent over-crowding. An enrolment scheme must contain a 'home zone' with clearly defined boundaries. Students who live within the home zone have an absolute right to enroll at the school. Students living outside the zone can still apply to enroll, but if there are more applicants than available places, a ballot will be held to determine who can enroll. Brothers and sisters of current and former students and children of board employees have a higher priority for the out-of-zone places.

Parents or caregivers can telephone the schools they are interested in and ask to visit. They can ask to see the latest Education Review Office report, which is available to the public, or get a copy from the local Education Review Office or the Education Review Office's web site: www.ero.govt.nz

Many schools have a prospectus or brochure that sets out their ideals and what the school offers its students. Schools also have a school charter and you can ask to see a copy.



When to enroll

Children can be enrolled in a New Zealand school from their fifth birthday. All children in New Zealand must attend school from their sixth birthday.

How to enrol

Once parents and caregivers have decided on a school they are encouraged to visit to fill in an enrolment form before the child's first day. They are then given information about school opening hours and how the school operates. Often this visit provides parents and caregivers with the opportunity to meet the principal. 

Once children are enrolled, they and their parents and caregivers become part of the school community and have many opportunities to be involved in its activities.

Changing schools

If a child needs to change schools it is important to let the present school know as soon as possible. Once the child is enrolled at a new school all their personal records may be sent from the previous school.
Children changing to a new level of schooling, such as intermediate or secondary, will have information sent home with them telling parents and caregivers what they need to do.
Where there is a choice of schools, information will be provided about each option. Sometimes an information evening is arranged by the present school to explain these options more fully. Most intermediate and secondary schools hold open days so students and their parents and caregivers can see what they have to offer.

At March 2000 there were 6,304 foreign fee-paying (FFP) students and 283 Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) funded students attending New Zealand schools. There were 1,633 more foreign fee-paying students than in 1999. This 26% increase shows a recovery of the losses sustained in 1998 and 1999 (8.5% and 0.6% respectively) and an increase of nearly 23% (1,170 students) from the high of 5,134 FFP students in 1997. MFAT funded students numbers decreased by 38 (13.4%) in the year to 1 March 2000.


Special Education

Schools reported that at 1 March 2000 there were 6,383 students receiving funding under the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS). Of these, 4,566 students (72%) were identified as having high needs, while 1,817 (28%) had very high needs. A further 294 students under the age of seven were receiving funding under the Transitional Resourcing Scheme (TRS).

Of the ORS students, 793 high needs students and 779 very high needs students attended special schools. Thirty-seven TRS students also attended special schools.

Schools are also categorized as:

Co-education (or co-ed) - mixed sex
Single Sex - either boys only or girls only

Some schools may be, for example, single-sex boys schools but also have girls in the senior school and this is an increasing trend. On average single-sex schools have a very good academic record and about 25% of all students attend single-sex schools.

Most schools in New Zealand are part of the state system. While there is no legal requirement to pay fees at state schools, it is usual for parents to pay some fees/donations and charges. In general a child can attend any state school even one that is not the closest to where they live.

Although most students attend state-funded schools, parents, caregivers and students have other options.  

Schools of these types may have authority to operate enrolment schemes if there are likely to be more applicants for enrolment at the school than there are places available. Enrolment schemes at these schools do not have to include a home zone or provide for a ballot.


A State integrated school is a school with a special (religious) character, which has been integrated into the State system. Every integrated school has a maximum roll which it is not allowed to exceed. First of all an integrated school has to cater for students who meet the school's special character requirements. If there is room left, the school is able to enrol a set small number of students who do not meet the special character requirements.

A Kura Kaupapa Maori is a State school where teaching is in the Maori language and the school's aims, purposes and objectives reflect the Te Aho Matua philosophy. Kura Kaupapa Maori are able to restrict enrolments to the children of parents who accept the kura's aims, purposes and objectives.

A Designated Character School is a State school with a particular character, but different from integrated schools and kura kaupapa Maori. These schools are able to restrict enrolments to the children of parents who accept the school's aims, purposes and objectives.

Academic Year

The Academic year extends from late February or early March to November. The long summer vacation is from mid-November to mid-February. All universities except Canterbury operate a 2-semester system, with intakes into both semesters in some programs. This provides for 12-13 weeks of teaching in the first half-year, followed by examinations and study break from early June and early July, then 12-13 further weeks of teaching, followed again by several weeks of examinations. Each semester is itself in 2 parts, separated by study break of 1 or 2 weeks. Canterbury has a 4-term year with a 3 week examination period in June and breaks of 2-3 weeks between terms. There are some vacation courses for degrees although postgraduate research students continue work all year round.

Term Dates

The school year has four terms. Students have a six-week summer holiday and three two-week breaks between each of the four terms. Actual dates vary from school to school but the terms generally run from:

Term 1 Monday 28 January to Thursday 28 March 2002
Term 2 Monday 15 April to Friday 28 June 2002
Term 3 Monday 15 July to Friday 20 September 2002
Term 4 Monday 7 October to Friday 19 December 2002 


To conclude, New Zealand education system is regarded as one of the best education systems in the world .New Zealand's education system is disciplined yet relaxed, competitive yet team supportive, these characteristics, have transformed New Zealand into a popular destination for overseas students seeking prime education.

Following are the useful links to have more information on New Zealand Education System.


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