New Zealand’s education system has three levels of early childhood education, schooling and tertiary education across which students can follow a variety of flexible pathways.

Education is compulsory for all students aged between six and 16 years, though the vast majority of students begin school at age five.

Early childhood education (ECE) is for children under five and is characterised by strong quality assurance and a world-leading national curriculum. There is a high degree of participation in ECE and increasing levels of teacher quality.

School education, like most early childhood education, is free in the state system. New Zealand has nearly 2,600 schools, most of which are publicly owned and funded by the government. They follow a national curriculum but are self-managing and governed by locally elected boards of trustees.

School education in the early years provides a strong foundation in literacy and numeracy and an introduction to a broad and balanced curriculum, while the secondary years (ages 13 to 17) offer excellent subject-based learning, supported by professional career counselling. New Zealand schools are well resourced with information and communications technology, offering new ways for students to access knowledge and to learn.

Tertiary education in New Zealand is delivered by a variety of providers. Universities, Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs), Private Training Establishments (PTEs) and Industry Training Organisations (ITOs) all deliver a variety of educational options, often in flexible ways to meet the needs of adult learners.

New Zealand’s tertiary qualifications and programmes are internationally recognized for their quality and focus on graduate preparedness.

A Network of Provision

Administrative authority for most education service provision is devolved from central government to the educational institutions which are governed (in the public sector) by individual Boards or Councils, members of which are elected or appointed. Schools and tertiary institutions work within the framework of guidelines, requirements and funding arrangements set by central government and administered through its agencies.

There are no state or provincial systems. Although there is diversity in the forms of institutions through which education is provided, national policies and quality assurance provide continuity and consistency across the system.

The Ministry of Education

The Ministry of Education (the Ministry) is the central government agency responsible for guiding the education sector to deliver a world-leading education system that equips all New Zealand with the knowledge, skills and values to be successful citizens.

The Ministry gives effect to the governmental priorities for education to ensure that desired educational outcomes are achieved. It does this by working with parents, schools and communities.

To that end, the Ministry provides leadership, analysis, planning, funding and implementation through:

education policy advice to the Minister of Education and the government

allocating funding and resources to schools and early childhood education providers

overseeing and supporting the implementation of approved education policies

managing special education services

undertaking research, collecting and processing education statistics and information monitoring the effectiveness of the education system.

Separate education agencies are responsible for qualifications and quality assurance. They are described in the section on Student Pathways.

The Tertiary Education Commission

The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) is the governmental agency responsible for managing the tertiary education sector.

All forms of post-school education and training come under the TEC umbrella. These range from full-time academic study, on- job and work-related training right through to tertiary research and development, foundation education, distance education and part-time study.

The TEC has implemented a way of planning, funding and monitoring tertiary education that aims to ensure tertiary education organisations are funded to deliver quality education and training that is relevant to students, their potential employers and to the communities they live in.

Increasingly tertiary education organisations are working with one another to ensure the education and training available across New Zealand is complementary and provides for student choice.

Other central education agencies are the Education Review Office and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA).