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New Zealand - Education and Schools
It is compulsory for children from the age of six to attend school. Since most schools have a continuous intake, kids can start school after their fifth birthday. The school year has four terms that run from February to December. There is a six-week holiday before Christmas and a two-week break in between the semesters. The ministry of education is responsible for setting the dates for when the terms begin and end, which are announced in July.
Kindergartens, preschools, and play centers admit kids between the age of two and five years. The schools that kids attend at these levels are kindergarten, pre-school, and play centers in that order. Private schools however have the freedom to set their own start and end dates for the terms and they usually have longer school holidays. Schools in New Zealand have catchment areas referred to as either ‘home zone’ or ‘zone’. Parents are required to send their kids to the local schools. Properties that are zoned for better schools attract premium prices and are in great demand.
There is a wide range of choices for people looking for school options for younger kids between two and five years. One of the requirements for children to be admitted to kindergarten is age. However, many kindergartens have limited slots for students and it is common to find kids who have not yet reached three years to be enrolled. The ratio of teachers to children in kindergartens is one to 15. Kindergartens have three afternoon sessions for the younger kids and five morning sessions for the older ones. During this period, the children are taught social skills needed for school environments through play. Although public kindergartens are government funded, they often ask for donations to cover some costs. Parents often volunteer make snacks and do end of term cleaning sessions.
Some play centers are parent led. In addition, younger kids can attend play centers with their parents. However, as the kids grow older they continue without their parents. Although play centers are often headed by qualified personnel, parents are usually involved in their operations. Apart from keeping the costs down it also offers parents a chance to network with the play center administration and other parents.
There are several private schools, most of which are based on British public schools. The fees for private schools can be about 10000 NZD per year, which is quite high for an average New Zealand household. The standard of education offered in private schools is high and they are known for producing successful graduates. New Zealand has integrated schools that were once private schools but are now within the state system. Most of the integrated schools are religious and they teach the New Zealand curriculum. The land and buildings are privately owned so they charge fees to be able to pay the property costs. Integrated schools receive the same funding as state schools. The entry criteria for integrated schools are based on religious or philosophical principles.
Tertiary education is of a good quality in New Zealand. There are polytechnics, universities, and specialist training institutions. The growth of the tertiary education sector has increased competition that has attracted international and local students. Although tertiary institutions offer various degree programs, some institutions have greater reputations than others for certain subject areas. The cost of completing a degree varies depending on the course, with medicine being one of the most expensive options. Students can pay for tertiary courses through self-sponsorship or by obtaining student loans. Many students prefer to work during the holidays and part time during term time to pay for their courses.
When it comes to choosing schools, they are zoned to ensure that the children living within each zone get to attend the schools within the zone. This is the same as the system that is used in the UK. The system results in the schools gaining reputations in different sectors. Such schools automatically become the best ranking schools. Those with school going children can give you a breakdown of the reputation of the schools within the area. Alternatively, there is the government website which provides official reports for the schools.
Since there are no standardized tests in primary school, it means there is no public ranking. The NCRA exam results for secondary schools can be accessed on their website. Keep in mind that the data are raw and that statistics do not always tell the entire story. The best way to find out more about an institution is by visiting it and speaking to those who have experience of it.
Further education is referred to as post compulsory education in New Zealand. There are eight universities that provide it, twenty-five polytechnics and various colleges that specialize in teacher training. The institutions operate as free markets and are in constant competition with each other for students. The funding comes from government subsidies and student fees. Government subsidies are allocated based on student numbers rather than on an as needed basis.
Universities are regarded as prestigious learning institutions. The eight public universities in New Zealand are Lincoln University, University of Auckland, Auckland University of Technology, Massey Univeristy, University of Canterbury, University of Waikato, Victoria University, and University of Otago. Although these universities offer a wide range of degree programs, they often have certain subjects of specialty. An example is how the University of Auckland specializes in engineering, art, architecture, medicine, optometry, and planning whereas university of Otago is best known for dentistry, physical education, home science, and pharmacy.
A degree from a university that is seen as a center of excellence is more valued than a degree from a university that is not. Auckland has the highest student numbers and offers the largest number of courses.
Degree programs take three to four years to complete. The requirements for entry vary depending on the course. Every university handles their admission and issues the enrolment kit during the first week of September. Applications should be turned in by the end of the first week of December. Polytechnic and university academic years begin in February and end in November.
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