Indicators

School leavers with NCEA Level 1 or above

What We Have Found

In 2013, eighty-five percent of school leavers achieved at least NCEA Level 1, and eighty-nine percent achieved NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy.

Date Updated: July 2014

Indicator Description

Percentage of school leavers with at least an NCEA Level 1 qualification or equivalent.

Why This Is Important

The attainment of an upper secondary school qualification is linked to labour force status and incomes.  In 2011 New Zealanders with no qualifications had an unemployment rate 48% higher than those whose highest qualification was a school qualification (OECD, 2013).

The National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) Level 1 is the first stage of upper-secondary education, and serves as a foundation for further study and/or employment.  NCEA Level 1, as with all levels of NCEA, encompasses a wide range of learning.  Students can attain credits through internal and external assessment, and they can accumulate these credits both within and across years.

How We Are Going

In 2013, 85.2% of all school leavers attained at least NCEA Level 1 or equivalent. Since 2009 (80.7%), there has been a 4.5 percentage point increase with respect to those who attain at least NCEA Level 1 or equivalent. Compared to 2012, there has been no change in the proportion of school leavers who attain at least NCEA Level 1 or equivalent. Female school leavers (86.8%) achieved at a higher rate than their male counterparts (83.7%).

In 2013, students were required to obtain 10 literacy and 10 numeracy credits to achieve an NCEA Level 1 qualification. This is an increase on the 8 credits previously required to achieve NCEA Level 1. No historical adjustment has been made for this change. It may have had a minor effect on the 2013 level 1 attainment compared with other years.

Figure 1: Percentage of total school leavers with at least an NCEA Level 1 qualification or equivalent (2009 to 2013)

Ethnic Group

Total response ethnicity collection involves counting people who identify with more than one ethnic group in each of these ethnic groups. For the New Zealand total individuals are counted only once. When looking at ethnicity in this way in 2013, Asian students had the highest proportion of school leavers attaining at least NCEA Level 1 or equivalent (93.5%), which was 4.6 percentage points higher than the percentage for European/Pākehā (88.9%). Pasifika (81.7%) and Māori (70.4%) school leavers had the lowest rates of NCEA Level 1 or equivalent attainment.

From 2009 to 2013 there have been increases in the proportion of school leavers achieving at least an NCEA level 1 or equivalent from all ethnic groups. Pasifika have had the largest increase in the proportion of leavers attaining at least level 1, with a percentage point increase of 8.1 between 2009 (73.6%) and 2013 (81.7%). The increase of Māori school leavers achieving at least level 1 was 7.2 percentage points between 2009 (63.2%) and 2013 (70.4%). The proportion of Asian leavers with level 1 or above increased 4.2 percentage points from 2009 (89.3%) to 2013 (93.5%) and European/Pākehā school leavers had a smaller percentage point increase of 3.5 over the same period (85.4% in 2012 to 88.9% in 2013).

From 2012 to 2013 the proportion of leavers achieving a minimum of NCEA Level 1 or equivalent increased for only the Pasifika and Asian ethnic groups; by 2.4 percentage points and 0.7 percentage points respectively.

Figure 2: Percentage of total school leavers with at least an NCEA Level 1 qualification or equivalent by ethnic group (2009 to 2013)

Gender

From 2009 to 2012 there has been a consistent pattern of females attaining NCEA Level 1 or equivalent at higher rates than males. In 2013, the trend of female school leavers achieving at a higher rate than their male counterparts continued: 86.8% of females compared to 83.7% of males. However, the size of the gender gap is closing with the difference decreasing by 3.1 percentage points since 2009, where female attainment was 82.9% and male was 78.5%.

The proportion of males and females attaining level 1 in 2013 has been consistent with that of 2012 with females showing a minor decrease of 0.1 percentage points and males an increase of 0.2 percentage points.

Age-standardised stand-down rates are highest for Māori except in quintile 1 where European/Pākehā students had the highest rate. Māori had the second highest rate in this quintile.

Figure 3: Percentage of total school leavers with at least an NCEA Level 1 qualification or equivalent by gender (2009 to 2013)

Decile

A clear positive correlation can be seen between the socio-economic mix of the school the student attended and the percentage of school leavers attaining at least an NCEA Level 1 qualification or equivalent. Schools in the lowest deciles (deciles 1 and 2) draw their students from communities with the highest degree of socio-economic disadvantage.

In 2013, 95.7% of students from schools in the highest deciles (deciles 9 and 10) left school with at least a Level 1 qualification. This was 21.9 percentage points higher than the lowest two deciles (73.8%). However, while there may be a difference in the decile groupings, we can see in the figure below that there is a large variation in the percentage of school leavers attaining at least an NCEA Level 1 amongst schools within each decile. Some decile 1 and 2 schools have pass rates that exceed that of many decile 9 and 10 schools.

Figure 4: Percentage of total school leavers with at least an NCEA Level 1 qualification or equivalent by school decile (2009 to 2013)

How We Are Going

In 2013, students were required to obtain 10 literacy and 10 numeracy credits to achieve the NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy criteria requirements, an increase on the 8 credits required in previous years. No historical adjustment has been made for this change and it may have had a minor effect on the 2013 level 1 attainment compared with other years.

In 2013, 86.7% of all school leavers achieved NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy. This is a 2.5 percentage point increase in level 1 literacy and numeracy attainment overall since 2009, but is down 1.0 percentage points from a recent peak in attainment in 2012.

Consistent with previous years, female school leavers (88.2%) achieved at a higher rate than their male counterparts (85.3%).

Asian school leavers were found to have the highest proportion achieving NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy followed closely by European/Pākehā leavers. Pasifika and Māori had the lowest proportions of school leavers achieving NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy.

Figure 5: Percentage of total school leavers with NCEA literacy and numeracy (2009 to 2013)

Ethnic Group

Asian students had the highest proportion of school leavers achieving NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy, with 94.4% in 2013, which was 4.2 percentage points higher than that of European/Pākehā (90.2%). Pasifika (83.7%) and Māori (72.9%) students had the lowest proportions of leavers achieving NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy.

Since 2012 the proportion of leavers achieving NCEA Level1 literacy and numeracy increased very slightly for Pasifika (0.9 percentage points) and Asian leavers (0.6 percentage points), and decreased for Māori (2.5 percentage points) and European/Pākehā (1.2 percentage points). The 2013 level 1 literacy and numeracy achievement disparity between Māori and all other ethnic groups was greater than in 2012.

From 2009 to 2013, all ethnic groups saw an improvement in school leaver NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy achievement rates, with Pasifika leavers showing the biggest improvement (5.5 percentage points), followed by Asian (4.0 percentage points) and Māori leavers (2.9 percentage points). The proportion of European/Pākehā leavers with level 1 literacy and numeracy increased 1.9 percentage points over the same period.

Figure 6: Percentage of total school leavers with NCEA literacy and numeracy by ethnic group (2009 to 2013)

Gender

Since 2009 there has been a consistent pattern of females attaining NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy requirements at higher rates than males. In 2013, 88.2% of Female school leavers achieved the requirement, compared with 85.3% of their male counterparts. However the size of the gender gap has closed since 2009 with the difference decreasing from 3.9 percentage points to 2.9 percentage points in 2013.

The proportion of males and females attaining level 1 in 2013 has been slightly down on 2012 with females showing a decrease of 1.2 percentage points and males a decrease of 1.0 percentage points.

Figure 7: Percentage of total school leavers with NCEA literacy and numeracy by gender (2009 to 2013)

Decile

A positive correlation can be seen between the socio-economic mix of the school the student attended and the percentage of school leavers achieving NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy. Due to a generally high achievement of Level 1 literacy and numeracy, there is an evident ceiling effect present as shown in the figure below. However, the general trend is still evident.

Figure 8: Percentage of total school leavers with NCEA literacy and numeracy by school decile (2009 to 2013)

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