School leavers with NCEA level 3 or above
What We Have Found
Fifty-four percent of 2017 school leavers achieved at least an NCEA level 3 qualification.
Date Updated: September 2018
Percentage of school leavers with an NCEA level 3 qualification or above, this includes anyone who obtained University Entrance Award.
Why This Is Important
A formal school qualification is a measure of the extent to which young adults have completed a basic prerequisite for higher education and training and many entry-level jobs.
Educational qualifications are also linked to labour force status and incomes. For example, in 2011, New Zealanders with no qualification possessed two-thirds of the relative earning power of those with a Bachelor degree or higher, on average (OECD, 2013).
How We Are Going
In 2017, 54.4% of all school leavers achieved level 3 or above. This is an improvement of 0.1 percentage points on 54.3% in 2016. Since 2009, there has been an increase of 12.5 percentage points in the proportion of school leavers who achieve level 3 or above, with 54.4% in 2017 compared to 41.9% in 2009. As seen in figure 1, nearly all school leavers with a University Entrance Award achieve at least NCEA level 3 or above.
As seen in figure 1, nearly all school leavers with a University Entrance Award achieve at least NCEA level 3 or above.
Figure 1: Percent of school leavers with NCEA level 3 or above (2009-2017)
In 2017, 1.6% of students with a NCEA level 3 qualification or above achieved a NZ Scholarship award or a National Qualifications Framework qualification at Level 4 or higher.
Of students with a NCEA Level 3 qualification or above in 2017, 4.0% achieved a non-NZQF Level 3 equivalent qualification such as International Baccalaureate, Cambridge International exams, and Accelerated Christian education, and other overseas awards.
NCEA Level 3 with Excellence was achieved by 14.1%, while 25.0% achieved NCEA Level 3 with Merit. It should be noted that endorsements only relate to NCEA; not non-NZQF courses.
Total response ethnicity collection involves counting people who identify with more than one ethnic group in each of their ethnic groups, however, for the Total, individuals are counted only once. Asian students had the highest proportion of school leavers achieving NCEA Level 3 or above in 2017 (77.8%), which was 20.5 percentage points higher than European/Pākehā (57.2%). Pacific (46.4%) and Māori (35.6%) had the lowest proportion of school leavers achieving the standard.
In terms of ethnic group trends, Pacific leavers showed the greatest improvement since 2016 with a 2.5 percentage point increase in the proportion of leavers attaining NCEA Level 3 or above, and a 23.2 percentage point increase since 2009. Māori school leavers have also shown a sizeable improvement, with an increase of 1.4 percentage points since 2016 and an increase of 16.5 percentage points between 2009 (19.1%) and 2017 (35.6%). However, Māori and Pacific attainment remains considerably lower than the other ethnic groups.
Asian school leavers had an increase of 14.1 percentage points between 2009 (63.7%) and 2017 (77.8%), while European/Pākehā school leavers had a smaller increase: 10.0 percentage points between 2009 (47.2%) and 2017 (57.2%).
Figure 2: Percentage of school leavers with NCEA level 3 or above, by ethnic group (2009 to 2017)
Female school leavers (60.9%) achieved at a significantly higher rate than their male counterparts (48.2%). Between 2016 and 2017, the proportion of females with NCEA Level 3 or above remained unchanged while the proportion of males with NCEA level 3 or above increased by 0.3 percentage points.
Figure 3: Percentage of school leavers with NCEA level 3 or above by gender (2009 to 2017)
There is a clear positive correlation between the socio-economic mix of the school the student attended and the proportion of school leavers achieving a NCEA level 3 or above. Schools in the lowest deciles (deciles 1 and 2) draw their students from communities with the highest degree of socio-economic disadvantage. Students from schools in the highest deciles (deciles 9 and 10) are twice as likely to leave school having achieved NCEA level 3 or above than students from schools in the lowest two deciles. There is, however, a great deal of variation amongst schools within each decile, with some schools in the lowest deciles with a greater proportion of students achieving NCEA level 3 or above than some schools in the highest deciles.
Figure 4: Percentage of school leavers achieving NCEA level 3 or above, by school decile (2017)
University Entrance Award
In 2017, 40.1% of school leavers achieved a University Entrance Award, a 0.8 percentage point decrease on 2016 (40.9%).
A change in the requirements for the NZQA university entrance award came into effect in 2014. Hence results from 2014 onwards cannot be sensibly compared to previous years.
Asian students had the highest proportion of school leavers achieving University Entrance Award with 67.3%. This was followed by European/Pākehā (44.7%), Pacific (22.4%) and Māori (18.9%).
Female leavers were more likely to obtain University Entrance Award than their male counterparts, at 46.7% compared to 33.8%.
Figure 5: Percentage of school leavers with NZQA university entrance award (2009 to 2017)
Evidence about what works for this indicator can be found in:
- Alton-Lee, A. (2003). Quality Teaching for Diverse Students in Schooling: Best Evidence Synthesis. Wellington: Ministry of Education.
- Anthony, G., and Walshaw, M. (2007). Effective Pedagogy in Mathematics/Pāngarau: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration. Wellington: Ministry of Education.
- OECD (2013). Education at a Glance 2016: OECD Indicators . Paris: OECD.
The Ministry of Education has established an Iterative Best Evidence Synthesis Programme to systematically identify, evaluate, analyse, synthesise and make accessible, relevant evidence linked to a range of learner outcomes. Please visit BES (Iterative Best Evidence Synthesis) Programme to find out more.
Where To Find Out More
Education Data Requests
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