Education and Schools in New Zealand

Auckland International College in New ZealandThe quality of education in New Zealand is ranked among the best in the world, and has been rated highly by both the UN Human Development Index and the Programme for International Student Assessment. A high percentage (77 percent) of New Zealanders have secondary and/or tertiary qualifications – well above the OECD average.

Expats moving to New Zealand with kids will have no difficulty finding an affordable, high-quality school for their children, and cities such as Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch have a broad range to choose from. State education in New Zealand is fully-funded by the government, while private schools are given a 25 percent state subsidy.

Only New Zealand citizens and permanent residents are entitled to attend schools in New Zealand for free – children whose parents are in New Zealand on a temporary visa will need to apply for a student visa and will also be liable for additional “international student fees” at state schools until their children become permanent residents. State schools use these fees to supplement their funding from the state.

New Zealand has a three-tiered approach to education, with primary school, secondary school and tertiary institutions. Education is compulsory up to the age of 16 years, and parents who wish to homeschool their children need to obtain an exemption from enrolment at a regular school from the Secretary of Education.

Public schools in New Zealand

Over 85 percent of children in New Zealand attend the excellent state-controlled schools throughout the country. State schools can be either co-educational or single-sex and are secular, although a small number of “state-integrated” schools are state-controlled, privately owned schools which operate according to a particular religious ethos.

School is compulsory from age six (although it is permissible to enter from age five) up until aged 16. Most children continue to Year 12 and 13 to acquire the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) Level 1,2 or 3 (corresponding to Year 11, 12 or 13). Most New Zealanders consider Year 13 to be the end of a child’s schooling. The NCEA is highly regarded internationally and is readily accepted by overseas universities.

Children attend the state school that serves their geographic zone. For this reason, the best schools typically push up property prices in the suburbs they are in.

Private and international schools in New Zealand

Unless you are a permanent resident in New Zealand, you will be liable for international school fees at state schools. However, even with these fees, state schools are still a cheaper option for expat parents looking for affordable schooling in New Zealand.

Private schools receive about a quarter of their funding from the government, and the rest from school fees. There are a range of private schools in New Zealand, including several offering the International Baccalaureate and the IGCSE/ A-Levels. Some international schools in New Zealand are among the best in the world.

Tertiary education in New Zealand

Tertiary education institutions in New Zealand offer a wide range of formal and vocational programmes for adults. Institutions can be universities, Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs), Private Training Establishments (PTEs), Industry Training Organisations (ITOs) or Wänanga (Mäori institutions).

Formal courses are offered by New Zealand’s eight universities, where students must meet a minimum level of English language proficiency to gain acceptance. The best is the University of Auckland, ranked 50th in the world. A Bachelor of Arts degree is a three-year degree, followed by an optional one-year Honours degree.

Tertiary education is partly state funded, and permanent resident students need only contribute about a third of tuition costs. Expats who travel to New Zealand with the express purpose of studying will need to acquire a study permit if their course lasts longer than 12 weeks.

Homeschooling in New Zealand

Parents who want to homeschool children in New Zealand will need to apply for permission from the Ministry of Education. You will need to prove that your child will be taught as regularly and as well as in a regular school – although the law is rather vague on what counts as sufficient proof. Once you have been granted an exemption certificate from the MoE, you are entitled to a state-sponsored stipend to help with costs. Homeschooling is not a particularly popular method, but nevertheless, there are good online resources and support groups to help expat parents, such as the Home Education Foundation (

School fees in New Zealand

Some primary and secondary schools ask for a voluntary donation from parents, ranging up to 1,500 NZD per child. School costs, such as uniforms, sporting equipment, field trips and stationary, can cost anything up to NZD 5,000 per year. New Zealand’s tertiary education is only partially subsidised by the government. Pre-school tuition is approximately NZD 500 per week, and private schools tuition is between NZD 10,000 and NZD 25,000 annually.

International students who are not permanent residents are liable for higher fees than New Zealand residents at both state schools and international schools - it is best to check with individual schools, as it can cost as much as 10,000 more a year for a non-permanent resident.

School year in New Zealand

New Zealand follows a southern hemisphere school calendar, meaning the school year begins in late January and ends in mid-December. There are four terms each year, and the longest holiday periods are in July and December. Dates often differ slightly for primary and secondary schools.

Useful links:

►New Zealand Qualifications Authority:
►Independent Schools of New Zealand:
►Ministry of Education:

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