How does New Zealand's education system compare? OECD's Education at a Glance 2011

Publication Details

This report "How does New Zealand's education system compare?" draws on the New Zealand results in OECD's Education at a Glance 2011 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 2009.

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

Date Published: September 2011

Please consider the environment before printing the contents of this report.

This report is available as a download (please refer to the 'Downloads' inset box).  For links to related publications/ information that may be of interest please refer to the 'Where to Find Out More' inset box.


Every year, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) publishes Education at a Glance, a set of indicators that compares the education systems of its 34 member countries, and eight participating partner countries. These indicators give us a good opportunity to view the characteristics and performance of our system against the systems of other countries. Despite some limitations, the Education at a Glance indicators are considered to "reflect a consensus among professionals on how to measure the current state of education internationally", and probably give us the most reliable and most complete basis for comparison currently available.

Marking OECD's 50th anniversary, an editorial theme this year is on 50 years of change in education, on the growth in participation and attainment over this time, and on OECD's work in the evolving narrative of education in human capital. It also includes country case studies on how indicators are being used as a catalyst for policy change and system improvement. This year's edition contains over 220 tables; up 30% from the previous year.

A new wave of PISA results from the PISA 2009 survey feature significantly in this edition. These include indicators on how socio-economic performance affects reading performance, and on how reading enjoyment affects performance, and on equity and equality in schools.

Also new this year are indicators on:

  • upper secondary completion rates,
  • vocational attainment - size and labour market outcomes
  • earnings premiums net of tax
  • stay rates for international students
  • student financial support
  • an analysis of tuition-fee reforms implemented since 1995;
  • additional tables on adults in non-formal learning, and on fields of study

Traditional indicators include;

  • levels of educational attainment in the population,
  • participation and achievement
  • expenditure on education
  • employment and earnings outcomes, and returns on educational investments
  • international education
  • staffing

This summary represents high-level highlights only. Readers are encouraged to check out the full report. The report and all tables and graphs are available online. Some tables are only available online.

Most of these indicators are based on data for the year 2009. For New Zealand, this reflects a period where the effects of the current economic recession have definitely begun to be felt in terms of reduced employment and earnings and increased demand for education. These effects can be seen for New Zealand and most other OECD countries in EAG 2011, and particularly so for younger adults, and those with lower levels of education.

EAG uses the International Standard Classification of Education (or ISCED 97) as a common basis for classifying and comparing educational levels. Under ISCED, pre-primary relates to those aged 3 or more, in centre-based education. Pre-primary indicators in EAG, therefore tend to under-represent the full picture of ECE as it is considered in New Zealand. Under ISCED "Upper-Secondary" refers to those with at least a year 12-equivalent school qualification. Those with a year 11-equivalent qualification, such as NCEA 1 or school certificate, are counted as "below upper secondary". "Upper-Secondary" also includes Level 1-3 post-secondary study. For countries like NZ, both these points can have a reasonable impact on how results for "upper secondary" are interpreted. The term "tertiary-educated" in EAG relates just to diploma level and above. Level 1-3 certificates are classified with "upper secondary" and level 4 certificates are classified as a separate "post-secondary non-tertiary" group.