New Zealand leads the world for education, according to the UN Development Programme’s 2011 Human Development Report.
That ranks us ahead of Norway, Australia, Ireland and the US (view the report).
Our education system values both academic and practical, skill-based achievements. Young people are encouraged to be questioning, flexible and to seek their own answers. Add in a healthy dose of outdoor recreation and sport plus a safe learning environment, and you’ve got a great recipe for producing resourceful and confident young adults.
You can choose between state funded schools, ‘state integrated’ schools based on religion (particularly Catholic) and private schools. Schooling is free at state and state-integrated schools although parents are expected to meet some minor costs including school books, stationery and uniforms. Private school fees range from $4,000 to $14,000 a year.
Schooling is compulsory for all children in New Zealand aged 6 to 16. Children go to primary school from 5-13 years old, then secondary school (also known as college, high school or grammar school). There are also some intermediate schools for children in their final primary school years from 11-13 years old.
Generally, children go to the state school that serves their particular geographic zone. See schoolzones.co.nz for more details. Houses in the zones of particularly well thought of state schools can be more expensive to buy or rent. If an international qualification is your preference, IB World Schools (International Baccalaureate) and schools offering the Cambridge Exams are an option in the main cities.
School usually starts at 9am and runs to 3pm or 3:30pm. There are four school terms running from late January to mid-December with two-week breaks between them and a six-week summer break at the end of the year.
- Term 1: February to mid-April - Two week break
- Term 2: Late April to early July - Two week break
- Term 3: Mid July to late September - Two week break
- Term 4: Mid October to mid December - Six week summer holiday
Like the rest of New Zealand, schools are peaceful, relaxed places and discipline is good. Pupils are made to feel comfortable in their learning environment and there’s less pressure. It’s an environment where young people can stress less and learn more.
Children get a good level of personal attention with an average of one teacher for every 23-29 students at primary level, and one teacher to 17-23 students at secondary state schools.
There is a national curriculum and all schools, state and private, are measured against it every three years by the Government’s Education Review Office (ERO).
Individual school reviews are available at ERO.
Some schools also offer Cambridge International Examinations or International Baccalaureate at senior levels.
Visas for your children
Dependent children of temporary work visa holders are entitled to attend New Zealand primary and secondary schools as domestic students. However, they need a student visa. To avoid delays it is strongly recommended that you apply for this visa from your home country. Without a student visa, they can only attend school for two weeks as a domestic student or for three months as a fee-paying international student.
There are eight universities located in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. There are also 20 polytechnics and institutes of technology in all the main centres and leading provincial cities as well.
If you're a permanent resident, fees are subsidised by the Government and if you have been a resident for 2 years the student-paid part can be borrowed on a Student Loan. Fees for a typical undergraduate course range from between $4,500 to $8,000 annually for residents, and more for international students. Non-residents will need a student visa.
63% of New Zealand’s universities appear in the Shanghai Jiao Tong Academic World Rankings, a higher percentage than any other country. 75% of New Zealand’s universities appeared in the Top 500 in the QS Times Higher Education World Rankings.
Early childhood education (ECE) is available at play centres and kindergartens. All three and four year olds (and five-year-olds with a transition-to-school plan) are eligible to receive 20 hours free ECE per week. This benefit is available to all children, regardless of what visa you hold.