How does New Zealand's education system compare? OECD's Education at a Glance 2012

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 2012 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 2010.

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

Date Published: September 2012

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 around eight other participating partner and G20 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.

This is the 20th edition of Education at a Glance, and largely reflects education systems during the full onset of the global recession in 2009 and 2010. The editorial theme this year, "Taking stock of the global recession and looking ahead" discusses the disproportionate impacts of the recession on the younger and less educated, in terms of higher unemployment, higher NEET rates and greater earnings gaps, and the "remarkable resilience of the economic and labour market benefits of having a higher level of education - even in the face of dire fiscal conditions".

This year's EAG also highlights the fact that investment in education has increased in 24 out of 31 countries while national wealth as measured by GDP decreased in 26 of these countries, and that public expenditure per student continues to increase. In part, this reflects increases in private investment, as individuals look to return or stay longer in study, as employment prospects are lower. Public investment in education as a percentage of total public expenditure has remained constant between 2005 and 2009, and reduced in 19 out of 32 countries.

This year's edition of EAG contains around 220 tables, covering 31 broad indicators of Education systems. New this year are indicators on:

  • Educational attainment in the population
  • Participation and achievement
  • Expenditure on education
  • Employment and earnings by education level, and returns on educational investments
  • Transitions from school to work
  • Students travelling outside of their country to study, and
  • Staffing: teacher-student ratios, salaries, and demographics.

Recently introduced indicators include:

  • Upper secondary completion rates
  • Vocational attainment - size and labour market outcomes
  • Student financial support, and tertiary tuition fees
  • Social outcomes: new tables on civic engagement, student attitudes to ethnic minorities, and life expectancy
  • How education influences economic growth, labour costs and earning power, and
  • Adult learning: new tables on the labour costs of adults in non-formal learning.

There are two PISA-sourced indicators this year:

  • Career aspirations of boys and girls and the fields they pursue (PISA 2006), and
  • How well immigrants perform at school (PISA 2009).

This summary presents high-level highlights in relation to New Zealand. Readers are encouraged to check out the full report. The report and all tables and graphs are available online.

EAG 2012 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, and so under represents ECE as it is structured in New Zealand, as it excludes home-based ECE and ECE for those aged two and under.

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. Both these points have a reasonable impact on how results for "upper secondary" can be 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.