Education and Study

When it comes to education, everyone wants the best for their children and in New Zealand you will not only be getting the best, but you will be getting a high quality education with it being ranked the best in the world.

What’s convenient is that there are many schools available in the country, including public, private and international, although some expats do prefer to home school their child.

There are three common divisions of education: Primary, Secondary and Tertiary. Students usually complete eight years of primary school before starting secondary for three years, which they will then be awarded with a (NCEA) National Certificate of Educational Achievement (Level 1-3).

The academic school year in New Zealand generally runs from January- December and it is compulsory for children to attend school from the age of 5-16/18.

The structured system is as follows:

  • Kindergarten: Ages 3-5 years old
  • Primary School: Ages 5-12 years old
  • Secondary Education: Ages 12-17 years old

Children who are living in particular areas will have priority in attending schools around there; however for students who live outside the area will only be admitted if there is a place available or if their siblings are in the same school.

The classes are taught in the English language but some may be taught in Maori where only this language is used. One of the requirements for enrolling into schools will be having a good understanding of the English language.  Once children have been admitted, they will be assessed in the subjects so that they are positioned in the right class. Some of the integrated schools may have some religious requirements.

The curriculum for each school does vary but at majority of the secondary schools, students are taught general subjects such as – Maths, English, Art, PE, Science, Technology, Geography and History as well as a new language.


Expats who are moving to the country with children under five years of age can send their child to a play centre (Ages 1-3) or kindergarten if aged between aged 3-6. These can be found in most areas and the first 20 hours per week of early childhood education is funded by the government but expats may be required to pay some charges.

Private funded kindergarten and play centres are also available.

Public Schools

Majority of the parents in New Zealand send their child to a public school due to the high standard of education that is available.

For those students who are citizens and permanent residents of the country will be able to attend school for free. Expats, who are on a temporary visa, will be required to apply for a student visa for their child and will be accountable for paying further student fees. Some schools may ask parents for a voluntary donation and other fees will include uniforms, field trips and stationary.

Children are able to enrol into school at the age of five and must attend until they are 16 years old. Majority of the students who complete secondary education do choose to continue in school to obtain the NCEA which is accepted by universities abroad. There are three levels of the NCEA that are awarded if years 11, 12 and 13 are completed. In addition some children choose to leave school at 16 and start up a job.

Private Schools

There are many private schools available in New Zealand with some getting funding from the government. Parents are required to pay a certain amount of fees for private schools and can be expensive if children attend a boarding school.

Private school teaches a government approved curriculum which educates and prepares children to get admission into university

Each school does have its own registration requirements and will charge additional fees as well as enrolment fees.

International Schools

Expats who don’t have permanent residency in the country will be required to pay international schools fees. Sending your child to an international school is a good option especially if you will be moving back into your own country as they may teach the same curriculum which makes it easier for a child to get back into. Majority of the schools offer International Baccalaureate, GCSE and A-Levels which are qualifications recognised internationally.

For admissions into an international school, children may be required to take a test in English and Maths and then do an interview with the school before a place is confirmed. There may be enrolment fees, school fees and other additional costs that parents will need to pay for.

Both International and Private schools will have their own term dates and usually have longer school holidays. Parents can get this information from the schools website or by asking in the school office.

Tertiary Education/Universities

There are many tertiary institutions available which include universities, Maori Institutions, Industry Training Organisations, Colleges and Private Training Establishments which all have their own approach and provide higher education.

Permanent residents will need to contribute towards tuition costs as it is only partly state funded. Students who are coming to the country will be required to have a New Zealand study visa if their course is more than 3 months.

International students will be paying higher university tuition fees but can attain an honours degree in 3 years – 4 years. Students must meet a certain level of their final exams to be able to enrol.

For those who have completed the NCEA level 3 qualification will have the opportunity to attend one of the 8 universities, although to be accepted students will be required to meet a level of English to be accepted.


Some expats may prefer to home school their child, if this is the case parents will have to apply for permission from the Ministry of Education and will need to prove that their child will be taught at the same level of a regular school.

Once this has been approved, parents will be permitted to claim a state sponsored payment to help with the home schooling costs.

Many parents do not choose to home school their child but for those who do there are different resources available to help them.