If you’re planning on relocating your entire family to live in New Zealand, one of your primary concerns along with housing and employment will be education in New Zealand.

Educating your children and ensuring that they do not suffer when it comes to enduring changes in schooling or college and university is a challenge for every expat family.

The good news is that the New Zealand education system is highly regarded throughout the world – and there are even a number of state and private schools offering students the chance to study the International Baccalaureate or Cambridge GCSE and A level exams instead of the local NCEA qualifications.  In this article we take a look at education in New Zealand for children from the age of 5 right up to young adults who choose New Zealand’s colleges and universities for their further education.

Whilst schooling is compulsory for children from the ages of 6 to 16, most parents are able to and prefer to get their children into formal schooling from the age of 5.  Prior to this there are state and private nursery facilities for working parents and those who want their children to integrate with others before they attend school.

Parents can choose state or private school options for children at all stages in their education – and whilst New Zealand attempts to present to the world a classless society façade, when it comes to education this is not the case!  As with most developed nations in the world, when it comes to schools and education there is excessive snobbery in New Zealand.  In the most built up and populated areas there is zoning in place to try and ensure that anyone who falls within a given zone is given access to the schools within it.  This is to prevent children having to commute to school for one thing – but where a particular school has a good reputation, parents will move to live within its catchment zone just to get their children into that school.

There is also a rating or banding of schools in New Zealand depending on the income bracket of the families who send their children to that facility.  Schools that achieve rank Decile 10 have the most wealthy parents and receive lesser funding than a Decile 1 school where the government ploughs in money.  The higher the Decile the more the parents are expected to contribute and fund raise – and the higher the Decile the more snobbery is generally associated with sending your child to that school!

Very wealthy parents or those with children who have moved from abroad sometimes prefer to send their children to private schools.  With basic fees starting from around NZD 12,000 annually – and then extras such as uniform, books, equipment and even a computer coming on top, you can see why you have to be fairly wealthy to afford such an education for your children.

In terms of the qualifications children study for in New Zealand’s secondary schools, the current accreditation is called the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA).  Since this was introduced just a few years ago it has received massive criticism to the point that more schools are electing to teach Cambridge or International Baccalaureate qualifications now than ever before.  However, the government and local authorities are quick to assure parents that the teething problems the exams suffered have now been sorted out.

Whichever approach you choose for your children’s education when living in New Zealand, you can rest assured because all forms of senior school accreditation are taken into account for the colleges and universities in New Zealand – and apart from vocational course such as medicine and law for example which require certain standards of education are reached, any student can apply for a given college course.  The harder the courses the higher the exam results will need to be though of course!