New Zealand Education System

Schooling levelYears/GradeAge
Early ChildhoodPre-Schoolbirth - 5 years
Primary SchoolYears 1 - 65 - 10 years
Intermediate School*Years 7- 811- 12 years
Secondary/High SchoolYears 9 - 1313 - 18 years
TertiaryUniversity or Similar17 +

* Intermediate Schools may be integrated into either Junior or Senior Schools

Early childhood

Early childhood education provides education and care for children before they are old enough to go to school.

New Zealand has more than 4000 licensed early childhood education services available, including kindergartens, childcare centres, play centres, home-based care and playgroups.

Primary Schools

Primary school students study subjects guided by New Zealand National Curriculum: English, the arts, health and physical education, languages, mathematics and statistics, science, social sciences and technology.

Students’ abilities in reading, writing and maths are regularly assessed against expectations for their age level, as set out by New Zealand’s National Standards.

Intermediate schools

Intermediate schools are a bridge between primary school and secondary school. Primary education starts at Year 1 and continues through to Year 8. Years 7 and 8 are offered either at a primary school or at a separate intermediate school.

Secondary Schools

New Zealand has three types of secondary schools:

  • state schools, where 85% of Kiwi children go
  • state-integrated schools, which may be run by a religious faith or use specialist teaching methods
  • private schools.


Students at secondary schools – also known as high schools or colleges – work towards the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA). Secondary schools also offer some vocational subjects, such as tourism and computing.  Wellesley College can assist international students to transition into a secondary should they so wish.

Tertiary Education

New Zealand has eight state-funded universities, 16 Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs) and about 550 Private Training Establishments (PTEs), which include English language schools.

Choose the type of institution that’s best for your career path:

  • Universities offer higher degree-level education. Programmes are research-led and generally academic rather than vocational. In the 2015/16 QS World University Rankings, all eight of New Zealand’s universities were in the top 100 in at least one subject.
  • ITPs and a few larger PTEs offer vocational degree-level education.
  • PTEs tend to offer specific vocational programmes, mainly at certificate and diploma level.


Visit the Study in New Zealand website for more information.