How does New Zealand's education system compare? OECD's Education at a Glance 2010

Publication Details

This series "How does New Zealand's education system compare?" draws on the New Zealand results in OECD's Education at a Glance 2008 and summarises the characteristics and performance of New Zealand's education system in an international context. This year's report mostly relates to education in 2008.

Author(s): David Scott and Paul Gini, Ministry of Education.

Date Published: September 2010

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Chapter 9: Staffing resources

Teacher salaries and student to teacher ratios provide further measures of the resources devoted to education. Base teacher salaries for New Zealand teachers compare favourably with those of their OECD counterparts in benchmarks OECD uses, though are below OECD averages in absolute terms. New Zealand student to teacher ratios compare favourably with OECD average levels at pre-primary and upper secondary levels, but are higher at other levels of education.

EAG provides statistics on indicative salary rates of various types of teachers. While information on additional payments, such as management units, is collected, the main salary indicators are based on base salary rates only. Further work by OECD will shortly extend the scope and usefulness of their salary data collection.

Current indicators continue to illustrate a relatively short salary scale for New Zealand, and base salary rates that compare relatively favourably against other internal benchmarks, though are below average OECD levels in absolute terms.

The short scale for base salaries in New Zealand from minimum to maximum is matched only in Scotland and Denmark. After 15 years, a benchmark measure for EAG, New Zealand salaries have grown, based on base salary scales, by more than the OECD average. However, the eventual gap between minimum and maximum base salaries is lower in New Zealand.

In absolute terms, New Zealand teacher salaries are lower than the OECD average, which reflects lower than average GDP per capita. Relating salary levels to GDP per capita, we find that the benchmark base salary after 15 years' experience is 42% above the average GDP per capita in New Zealand for both primary and secondary teachers.14 Across the OECD, salary rates average only 16% and 29% above GDP per capita for primary and secondary teachers respectively.

Figure 22: Ratio of teachers' salary after 15 years of experience to earnings for full-time full-year workers with tertiary education aged 25 to 64 (2008)
Image of Figure 22: Ratio of teachers' salary after 15 years of experience to earnings for full-time full-year workers with tertiary education aged 25 to 64 (2008).

  1. See source Table D3.1 in EAG 2010 for full notes.

This year OECD presents the relativity between the benchmark base salary after 15 years' experience with the average full-time earnings of a tertiary-qualified adult and compares this across countries. The New Zealand teacher base salary rates are slightly below this tertiary benchmark with a ratio on 0.97 for both primary and secondary teachers. Only in Spain does the primary teacher salary benchmark exceed the benchmark for tertiary qualified. New Zealand's ratio is the second highest, a little above that of Australia. At upper secondary level, New Zealand is above the OECD average of 0.86 and is sixth highest.

Teaching staff ratios

Teaching staff ratios provide another resource indicator and may, as EAG notes, require trade-offs against other forms of teaching investment15, such as teacher salaries, professional development and teacher training, and teaching technology.

Teaching staff ratios vary across education levels, reaching a minimum on average across the OECD at upper secondary education level. New Zealand exhibits a similar pattern with relatively low ratios at upper secondary level. However, even lower ratio is recorded at pre-primary level, where the ratio of 9.6 students is fourth lowest in the OECD, behind the Nordic countries, Denmark, Iceland and Sweden.

At other levels of education, New Zealand teaching ratios are higher than average OECD levels, except at upper secondary education. At both lower secondary and tertiary education levels, New Zealand's ratios of 16.2 and 17.8 respectively are noticeably higher than the OECD averages of 13.7 and 15.8. At upper secondary education level, its ratio of 12.8 is somewhat lower than the OECD average of 13.5.

Figure 23: Ratio of students to teaching staff in educational institutions (2008)
Image of Figure 23: Ratio of students to teaching staff in educational institutions (2008).

  1. See source Table D2.2 in EAG 2010 for full notes.


  1. OECD figures relate to upper secondary education.
  2. This is similar to the concept of average class size, though differences between student instruction time and teacher working time can lead to significant differences in some countries. New Zealand is currently unable to provide comparable data on average class sizes.

Sources and further information on this section:

Education at a Glance 2010: OECD Indicators

, Chapters D1-D6 (Learning environment and organisation of schools).

Contact Us

For queries about Education at a Glance and INES contact:

David Scott
Manager, OECD Indicators of Education
Evidence, Data & Knowledge 
Ministry of Education
P O Box 1666
Wellington 6140

Phone:  +64 4 463 8052
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