Life in Schools and Universities in New Zealand

Articles > Life in Schools and Universities in New Zealand

New Zealand residents and citizens enjoy one of the best education systems in the world, and it’s free. The vast majority of New Zealanders send their children to public schools, although there’s also a wide range of private schools in the country.

The Worldwide Educating for the Future Index for 2019, which was released in January 2020, placed New Zealand third for preparing students for the future (aged between 15 and 24); the UK came in 15th place and the USA was in 22nd place and South Africa was placed 27th.

Another encouraging result is from 2019 Global Competitiveness Index which covers 141 countries. This index measures national competitiveness and placed New Zealand 19th and South Africa 60th.

Little ones can be enrolled in kindergarten where they are taught, through play, how to cope with school. For children aged 3 and 4, the first 20 hours a week are fully covered by government funding. The early learning system is especially designed “to empower and develop children in a holistic way by helping them to make links and develop relationships while discovering different ways of seeing the world.”

Most kindergarten have cameras and webcams, so the little ones can choose which activities they want to record to show their parents. Samples of children’s work is collected and placed in a portfolio, together with regular reports on what subjects are being tackled throughout each term. On leaving kindergarten, each child is given a record of their learning experiences which they can take with them to primary school.

Primary School
New Zealand’s education system believes in both academic and practical education. The primary years are between the ages of 5 and 12. These school years may take place a one school (full primary school) or two (contributing schools). The school day is usually from 9 until 3 and primary school children usually have most of their lessons in the same classroom with the same teacher.

Primary school follows the New Zealand Curriculum where seven core subjects are taught, English and maths being the strongest ones. The other five subjects are physical education and health, the arts, science, technology and social sciences. Attitudes and values are also considered an integral part of primary school learning.

The day often begins with mat time to get the children settled. This is followed by writing, maths and other subjects. There will be library days, games and PE and news and ‘show and tell’ days. Many school like to join classes for some lessons, giving the children a chance to interact with other teachers and children.

Secondary Schools (aka High School or College)
Secondary education starts in year 9 (age 13) and continues until year 13 (age17/18). Children can leave school at 16 but the majority continue until they are 18. Schools usually have their own playing fields and there is a strong emphasis on sport as well as academic achievement. There will also be opportunities for after school activities, such as drama, music, art and sports coaching. Students are also introduced to New Zealand’s great outdoors, with various organised school trips.

Secondary school adds statistics and languages to its core subjects and continues with five key competencies to enable children to succeed in life: – thinking, using language, symbols and text, managing self, relating to others and participating and contributing.

The National Certificate of Educational Achievement
The National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) is the New Zealand secondary school qualification which is recognised by employers and used for selection for tertiary education both overseas and at home. Subjects can be taken at different levels (1, 2 and 3) and the final certificate can be obtained with Merit or Excellence.

University Life
Life at tertiary institutions is good, however, it’s not free. The 8 public universities have excellent QS World University Rankings (2019), with Auckland coming 85th in the Top Universities listing. This high educational standard attracts international students which gives students a wider outlook on the world, plus an excellent education which will prepare them for employment around the world. Students enjoy everything on offer, including a good social life within the universities and the cities that surround them.