How does New Zealand's education system compare? OECD's Education at a Glance 2017

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 2017 and summarises the characteristics and performance of New Zealand's education system in an international context. This year's report relates to education in the 2015 or 2016 academic year and the 2014/2015 financial year.

Author(s): Aaron Norgrove and David Scott, Ministry of Education

Date Published: September 2017

New Zealand's Education System at a Glance

Early Childhood Education (ECE) and Schooling

  • As in previous years, New Zealand has performed well in early childhood indicators – participation and expenditure are in the top third of OECD countries and teacher-child ratios are among the lowest in the OECD.
  • Enrolment rates for 15 to 19 year-olds have grown in recent years, but flattened since 2014. New Zealand remains in the bottom half of OECD countries, a little below the OECD average.
  • Employment rates for youth have increased, and youth employment relative to other OECD countries remains high. Compared with other countries, young New Zealanders are more likely to leave school sooner for employment purposes, go on to further education, or enter further education when they are older.
  • The number of young New Zealanders (15 to 29 years old) not in employment, education or training (NEET) is now back to pre-recession levels and is lower than the OECD average for this age group.
  • Upper-secondary attainment continues to increase at younger ages but over the whole population remains below the OECD average. The time it takes to complete upper-secondary education is, however, similar to the OECD average, with 80% completing within five years of enrolment.
  • New Zealand spends less per student than the OECD average, but, relative to national wealth, public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP is high, and as a percentage of total public expenditure remains one of the highest in the OECD.
  • Teacher statutory salaries start lower, but increase faster than the OECD average and reach a maximum that is lower than the average maximum in other OECD countries. The gap between the salaries of teachers and other similarly-educated workers is smaller in New Zealand than it is in many other OECD countries, and female teachers earn more on average than other similarly qualified women.
  • New Zealand teachers have longer working hours than in most OECD countries, and also spend a higher proportion of this time engaged in teaching activities compared with the OECD average.
  • New Zealand school teachers are older on average and the proportion of teachers over 50 years old has been increasing. The proportion of teachers younger than 30 remains about the same as the OECD average. Across the OECD, teachers are more likely to be female. This is also the case in New Zealand.
  • The ratio of students to teachers in Years 7 to 10 is around 16 students per teacher, compared with the OECD average of 13.
  • As many OECD countries require upper-secondary teachers to hold master's degrees (or above), teachers in New Zealand tend to be qualified at a lower level than in other OECD countries. However, they have high salaries relative to their qualification level.

Tertiary and international education and the post-study outcomes of education

  • The proportion of New Zealand adults with a degree or above (at 32%) is above the OECD average of 29%. The proportion with a level 4 qualification or higher (at 51%) places New Zealand in the top three countries.
  • Across the OECD, women are more likely than men to enrol in, and graduate from, tertiary education. The rates of female enrolment and graduation in New Zealand are similar to the OECD average.
  • New Zealand has above average levels of participation at core tertiary ages (18 to 20) and average participation at ages 20 to 29. In New Zealand, first- time students tend to be older than across the OECD. The average age of new entrants to bachelor's degrees in New Zealand is 24, compared with the OECD average of 22.
  • New Zealand has the highest rate (68%) of participation in formal and/ or non-formal education in the OECD. While caring for children is a major barrier to participation across the OECD, in New Zealand the participation gap between those who have children and those who do not, is smaller than in most countries.
  • International students remain a key feature of New Zealand's education system. New Zealand has one of the largest proportions of tertiary students who are international students, especially at diploma and doctoral level, where 32% and 46% of students respectively are international students.
  • Compared with the OECD in general, New Zealand appears to be a more attractive option for international students wanting to study business administration and law, ICT, or services. Conversely, it is a less attractive option for international students in arts and humanities, engineering, or health and welfare.
  • New Zealand has a relatively high international student inflow compared with other countries across the OECD, where the number of students coming to study in New Zealand is much greater than the proportion of New Zealand residents choosing to study overseas.
  • Total expenditure on tertiary education is equal to 1.8% of GDP in New Zealand, compared with 1.5% on average for OECD countries. While just over half of tertiary education funding comes from public sources in New Zealand, the OECD average is slightly below 70%. Uniquely among OECD countries, all public education funding for tertiary education, as well as all other levels, is provided by New Zealand's central government.
  • Across all OECD countries, educational attainment levels are increasing for those who have parents without tertiary qualifications, particularly at diploma level and above. Intergenerational mobility in New Zealand is higher than the OECD average, with 32% of 30 to 44 year-olds and 23% of 45 to 59 year-olds whose parents did not obtain a tertiary degree, going on to obtain one themselves.
  • Relative to other OECD countries, employment rates in New Zealand remain high, and New Zealand has had one of the largest increases in employment for tertiary educated workers since 2005. New Zealand also has one of the smallest differences in employment rates between the most and the least educated.
  • Earnings of New Zealanders are at or above the OECD average at every education level. However, the earnings advantage for tertiary educated people, compared with upper-secondary educated people remains smaller than that in many other OECD countries, and returns on investment in higher levels of education remain smaller than those in most other countries. This reflects the comparatively higher earnings of non-tertiary educated adults in New Zealand.
  • There remains a persistent gap in earnings between men and women who have the same levels of educational attainment across the OECD. In New Zealand, among people with a bachelors degree or higher, men earn about 35% more than women.
  • Across OECD countries with available data, people with higher levels of education have a lower prevalence of depression. However, women are more likely to have been diagnosed with depression in the previous 12 months, regardless of their level of educational attainment.