18-year-olds with a minimum of NCEA Level 2 or equivalent
What We Have Found
In 2018, eighty-five percent of all 18-year-olds attained the equivalent of NCEA Level 2 or above.
Date Updated : September 2019
Percentage of 18-year-olds with the equivalent of an NCEA Level 2 qualification or above.
Why This Is Important
A Level 2 qualification gives people opportunities in terms of further education and employment, contributing to better health outcomes and a better quality of life. The attainment of an upper secondary school qualification is linked to labour force status and incomes. The resent research done by Scott (2018) found that NCEA Level 2 leavers are slightly more likely to go direct to work than their Level 3 peers who are slightly more likely to enrol in a tertiary institution. While there is not much difference between earnings for NCEA Level 2 and Level 3 groups, those with NCEA Level 1 school achievement have earned 15% less than NCEA Level 2 peers, and those with no achievement are earning 51% less. (Scott, 2018).
How We Are Going
In 2018, 85.1% of all 18-year-olds attained the equivalent of NCEA Level 2 or above, up 0.2 percentage points from 2017 (84.9%). 2018 marks the eighth year of measuring 18-year-old achievement at NCEA Level 2 or equivalent. The achievement rate has increased each year. There has been a 10.8 percentage point increase since 2011, which equates to an average annual increase of around 1.5 percentage points.
Figure 1: Percentage of 18-year-olds with at least NCEA Level 2 or equivalent (2011-2018)
Total response ethnicity collection involves counting people who identify with more than one ethnic group in each of those ethnic groups. For the New Zealand total individuals are counted only once. When looking at ethnicity in this way, Asian 18-year-olds had the highest proportion attaining the equivalent of NCEA Level 2 or above in 2018 (90.6%), which was 2.3 percentage points higher than European/Pākehā (88.3%). Pacific and Māori 18-year-olds had the lowest attainment rates, with 79.8% and 76.1% respectively.
From 2017 to 2018 there were increases in the proportion of 18-year-olds who attained the equivalent of NCEA Level 2 or above for increases for Pacific (1.1 percentage points) and Māori (0.5 percentage points), but a small decrease for Asian (0.3 percentage points) and European/Pākehā (0.1 percentage points).
Figure 2: Percentage of 18-year-olds with at least NCEA Level 2 or equivalent, by total response ethnic group (2011-2018)
In 2018, the proportion of female 18-year-olds attaining the equivalent of NCEA Level 2 or above was 87.6%, which was 4.9 percentage points higher rate than the male counterparts (82.7%).
The size of the gender gap has decreased since 2009 from a difference of 7.0 percentage points to 4.4 percentage points in 2014, and then the gender gap became steady around 4.4-4.9 percentage points from 2015 to 2018.
Figure 3: Percentage of 18-year-olds with at least NCEA Level 2 or equivalent, by gender (2011-2018)
School Leaving Age
The earlier learners leave school the less likely they are to attain a level 2 qualification. The learners who stay in school until they are 17-years-old are much more likely to successfully complete the equivalent of NCEA Level 2 or above. In 2018, 16.4 percent of the people who turned 18 left the school before they turned 17 (down from 21.1 percent in 2011). Of those who turned 18 in 2017 and left the school before they reached their 17th birthday, 51.4% had attained a minimum of NCEA Level 2 or equivalent. In comparison, of the 18-year-olds who remained at schools until at least their 17th birthday, 91.7% attained a minimum of NCEA Level 2 or equivalent.
The proportion of 15 and 16-year-old school leavers attaining NCEA Level 2 by age 18 has increased 11.3 and 17.4 percentage points respectively between 2011 and 2018. Students who leave before age-16 are more likely to complete NCEA Level 2 or equivalent after they leave school through tertiary and vocational courses.
Of the students who left school when they were 15-years-old, 30.5% had attained NCEA Level 2 or equivalent by 2018 when they were 18-years-old, 25.3% attained their qualification through tertiary and vocational courses.
Of the students who left school when they were 16-years-old, 56.9% had attained NCEA Level 2 or equivalent by 2018 when they were 18-years-old, 33.9% attained their qualification before they left school, 23.0% attained their qualification through tertiary and vocational courses.
Figure 4: Percentage of 18-year-olds with at least NCEA Level 2 or equivalent, by age they left school (2011-2018)
Evidence about what works for this indicator can be found in:
- Alton-Lee, A. (2003). Quality Teaching for Diverse Students in Schooling: Best Evidence Synthesis. Wellington: Ministry of Education.
- Anthony, G., and Walshaw, M. (2007). Effective Pedagogy in Mathematics/Pāngarau: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration. Wellington: Ministry of Education.
- David Scott. (2018). Post-school labour-market outcomes of school-based NCEA. Wellington: Ministry of Education.
The Ministry of Education has established an Iterative Best Evidence Synthesis Programme to systematically identify, evaluate, analyse, synthesise and make accessible, relevant evidence linked to a range of learner outcomes. Please visit BES (Iterative Best Evidence Synthesis) Programme to find out more.