How does New Zealand's education system compare? OECD's Education at a Glance 2015

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 2015 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 2013 or 2014 academic year and the 2012/2013 financial year.

Author(s): Simon Crossan, Ministry of Education

Date Published: November 2015


New Zealand's Education System at a Glance

Early Childhood Education (ECE) and Schooling
  • New Zealand continues to perform well on ECE indicators – participation, funding and teacher-child ratios are all in the top third of countries and well above OECD averages.
  • Enrolment rates for 15 to 19 year-olds are still in the bottom half of OECD countries, but are now closer to the median than they were five years ago.
  • Compared with other countries, young New Zealanders are more likely to leave school sooner, and work, or go on to further education, or enter further education when they're older.
  • The level of young New Zealanders not in employment, education or training (NEET) in 2014 has improved and is now at 2008 pre-recession levels. This improvement has been ahead of many other OECD countries over this period and NEET rates for 15 to 19 year-olds are now closer to the OECD average.
  • 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, as is public expenditure on tertiary education as a percentage of total public spending.
  • There are 16 full-time equivalent children per full-time equivalent primary teacher and 15 per full-time equivalent secondary teacher, both slightly higher than their respective OECD averages.
  • Teachers with 15 years experience earn about the same as equivalent qualified adults. Teacher statutory salaries increase faster than the OECD average, but reach a maximum which is lower than the average maximum in other OECD countries.
  • New Zealand teachers have longer statutory hours than the average statutory hours of their OECD counterparts.
  • New Zealand school teachers are older on average and the proportion of teachers over 50 years old has been increasing.
  • New Zealand has a low ratio of students to computers and our 15 year-olds accessed the internet sooner than many other OECD countries. New Zealand 15 year-olds spent about the same amount of time using computers at school as the OECD average.
Tertiary and international education and the post-study outcomes of education
  • The proportion of New Zealand adults with a degree or above (at 30%) is just above the OECD average. The proportion with a level 4 qualification or higher (at 52%) is one of the highest.
  • Female attainment now exceeds that of males in the majority of OECD countries, and in New Zealand this difference is one of the largest.
  • New Zealand has above average levels of participation at core tertiary ages (18 to 20) and relatively very high tertiary participation at older ages (30 and over). Participation in vocational programmes, especially at level 4 is also very high, as are levels of part-time study.
  • New Zealand students are more likely to enter science, mathematics and computing programmes than students in other OECD countries, but are less likely to enter engineering, manufacturing and construction programmes.
  • Public investment in tertiary education is high, but more of it goes to students as loans and grants than as direct funding to institutions than it does in other countries. Public expenditure on tertiary education as a percentage of GDP is high as is public expenditure on tertiary education as a percentage of total public spending.
  • At degree level, New Zealand has more students per teacher on average, and more women teaching.
  • International students remain a key feature of New Zealand's education system. New Zealand has one of the largest proportion of tertiary students who are international students, especially at doctoral level where 43 percent of students were international students.
  • The rate of employment and earnings increase with education, as with all countries in the OECD, but the relative benefits between the least and most educated are smaller in New Zealand.
  • A range of social indicators are positively associated with higher levels of education across OECD countries, including self-reported health, volunteering, trust and having a say in government.

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