Indicators Live: Education at a Glance 2009, Results for New Zealand

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 2007 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 2007.

Author(s): Strategy and System Performance, Ministry of Education.

Date Published: September 2009

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

Section 1: Introduction

Education at a Glance 2009 is published against a backdrop of a worldwide global recession. This gives added prominence to the recurring themes of the growing demand for education and the expected strains on public funding.

The OECD continues to emphasise the returns to education, both public and private. This year it explores, as it has done in earlier years, new measures of public and private returns to education. As in previous years, it plots the steady growth in international education, noting that this growth has been accompanied by increased interest in comparisons between education systems.

Governments and taxpayers make very substantial investments in education. In New Zealand, the government spends more than NZ$10 billion on education. Students and employers also pay large amounts. This investment is justified by the expectation that education makes a positive contribution to our society and to our economy - in other words, that investment is expected to yield a return. The government expects that a better educated population will have higher skills and will improve productivity and innovation in the economy. Research has shown that countries with higher average levels of education have better health outcomes and lower crime rates. For individuals, higher education qualifications offer a path to better careers with higher earnings. For firms, employees with higher qualifications are likely to have higher skills and hence offer greater returns.

All governments are paying increasing attention to international comparisons as they search for effective policies that enhance individuals' social and economic prospects and seek to meet rising demands. The indicators published annually in Education at a Glance are intended to help governments, people working in education and the public to see their education system in the light of the performance of comparable countries.

International comparisons are especially important for a small country like New Zealand which is not as wealthy as some other OECD countries. We have a small open economy and are highly reliant on land-based resources. Therefore, we rely to an unusual extent on innovation to make the most of our resource base. This puts education in a key role since all the international evidence suggests that an innovative economy and improvements in productivity depend on a more highly skilled workforce.

Some Key Terms and Definitions

Coverage of Data:

Data for most of the indicators relates to the OECD countries' 2006/07 academic year (described as 2007) and their 2006 financial year. Due to the different timing of our academic and financial years, New Zealand's data is out-of-phase and relates to our 2006/07 financial year and 2007 academic year. Where the period of data differs for some or all countries this is noted in Education at a Glance. The results presented in Education at a Glance, and this report, predate a number of developments in educational participation and financing in New Zealand and should be interpreted in this light.

ISCED Levels:

The International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) levels are:

ISCED 0:  Pre-primary education; includes only children aged 3 years and above.

ISCED 1:  Primary education; in the New Zealand education system this translates into years 1 to 6.

ISCED 2:  Lower secondary education; this translates into years 7 to 10 in New Zealand.

ISCED 3:  Upper secondary education; for New Zealand this covers years 11 to 15 in the school system, plus lower level programmes in the tertiary sector, such as level 1 to 3 certificates.

ISCED 4:  Post secondary non-tertiary education; this corresponds most closely with advanced level 4 certificate programmes in the New Zealand system.

ISCED 5a:  Programmes are largely theory-based and are intended to provide sufficient qualifications for gaining entry into advanced research programmes and professions with high skill requirements. Programmes at this level of education are sometimes described as tertiary type-A programmes. For New Zealand, this level covers degree (Bachelor and Masters) studies and post-graduate certificates and diplomas.

ISCED 5b:  Programmes focus on practical, technical or occupational skills for direct entry into the labour market. Programmes at this level of education are sometimes described as tertiary type-B programmes. This level covers diploma programmes in New Zealand.

ISCED 6:  Tertiary programmes at this level are devoted to advanced studies and original research. They lead to the award of an advanced research qualification. In the New Zealand education system this translates into doctoral and equivalent studies.

Purchasing Power Parity (PPP):

This concept is used to produce currency conversion rates that equalise the purchasing power of different currencies. PPP exchange rates are used in preference to market exchange rates, which are affected by many factors that have little to do with the current relative purchasing power in different OECD countries. In other words, PPP eliminates the differences in price levels between countries.

The PPP index used by OECD in Education at a Glance is known as known as PPP for GDP (Gross Domestic Product). It provides a basis for measuring the cost of devoting resources to education rather than alternative uses. It does not necessarily provide a basis for assessing the relative quantities of educational inputs that OECD countries devote to education.