This section is an overview of the New Zealand Education System.  For further information visit the New Zealand Education ThinkNew website.

Education System

Education in New Zealand begins at age five.  Students attend primary school for eight years.  The last two years are at intermediate school (years 7 and 8).  Secondary school starts at year 9 and lasts for five years, continuing until year 13. 

The New Zealand school year runs from the beginning of February until mid-December and is divided into four terms.  There is a two week break between each of the first three terms and a summer holiday at the end of term four of about six weeks.

The New Zealand compulsory curriculum has eight learning areas for years 1-10: English, Mathematics, Social Studies, Physical Education and Health, The Arts, Technology and Maori Language.

However, in years 11-13, as students are developing clear ideas about their future direction, they can select option subjects in areas they are interested in.

In years 11-13, students can also elect to take subjects like Hospitality, Technology, Outdoor Education, Music, Dance and Performing Arts. The specific subjects depend on the choices that individual schools are able to offer.

New Zealand has a system of qualifications called National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA).  NCEA is recognised by overseas universities, is well-regarded by employers and used for selection, both in New Zealand and in other countries.

This certificate has three academic levels at secondary schools:

  • Level 1 at year 11 (usually 15-16 years of age)
  • Level 2 at year 12 (16-17 years of age)
  • Level 3 at year 13 (17-18 years of age)

The examinations are a combination of internal and external assessements that are nationally moderated.

There are particular requirements for University Entrance, particularly achieving passes in literacy and numeracy.

Post compulsory education in New Zealand includes universities, polytechnics and institutes of technology, private training establishments and English language schools.

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