School leavers with NCEA Level 3 or above
What We Have Found
In 2018, fifty-four percent of school leavers achieved at least an NCEA Level 3 qualification.
Date Updated: October 2019
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. A recent research done by Scott (2018) found the earnings of students with UE who forgo employment initially for tertiary study, will overtake the earnings of all their less-qualified peer groups five years after leaving school. By year 7, the average earnings for the UE group is 28% higher than those of the NCEA 2 group. (Scott, 2018).
In 2015, New Zealanders with a tertiary education earn around 40% more than their counterparts with only an upper secondary education, whereas this difference is 56% on average across the OECD. (OECD, 2017).
How We Are Going
In 2018, 53.7% of all school leavers achieved Level 3 or above, a 1.1 percentage point decrease from 2017. Since 2009, there has been an increase of 11.8 percentage points in the proportion of school leavers who achieve Level 3 or above, with 53.7% in 2018 compared to 41.9% in 2009.
A change in the requirements for the NZQA university entrance award came into effect in 2014, the students have to get at least NCEA Level 3, as seen in Figure 1, the proportion of University Entrance award only was just 0.1% since 2014. The 0.1% students may have Non-NZQF qualifications that were not receded by NZQA.
Figure 1: Percent of school leavers with NCEA Level 3 or above (2009-2018)
In 2018, 1.4% of students with an 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 an NCEA Level 3 qualification or above in 2018, 3.8% 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 13.6%, while 25.3% 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. The proportion of Asian school leavers achieving NCEA Level 3 or above in 2018 was 75.7%, which was 19.3 percentage points higher than European/Pākehā (56.4%). Pacific was 46.1% and Māori was 35.3%.
Pacific school leavers had the largest increase of 22.9 percentage points between 2009 (23.2%) and 2018 (46.1%), followed by Māori with 16.2 percentage point increase between 2009 (19.1%) and 2018 (35.3%). Asian and European/Pākehā school leavers had a similar increase between 2009 and 2018 (12.0 and 9.2 percentage points respectively).
In 2018, there was an overall decrease in the proportion of leavers attaining NCEA Level 3 or above across all ethnicities. The Asian students saw a bigger decrease of 2.3 percentage points. European/Pākehā, Māori and Pacific saw decreases of 1.1, 0.7 and 0.4 percentage points respectively.
Figure 2: Percentage of school leavers with NCEA Level 3 or above, by ethnic group (2009 to 2018)
Māori Medium Education
Of the 15,398 Māori students who left school in 2018, 4.1% of them were learning in Māori Medium Education (MME)1when they left school. This proportion has increased 0.8 percentage points in last year.
In 2018, 59.2% of Māori school leavers from MME achieved at least NCEA Level 3 or above, up 2.8 percentage points from 2017. However the proportion of Māori school leavers from English Medium Education (EME) achieved at least NCEA Level 3 or equivalent was down 1.0 percentage point from 2017 to 34.3%. The proportion of Māori school leavers achieving at least NCEA Level 3 or equivalent in MME has been higher than that of total school leavers2since 2012.
Figure 3: Percentage of school leavers with NCEA Level 3 or above, by ethnic group (2009 to 2018)
Learners3in Māori Medium education (MME) have high rates of attainment4language standards.5In 2018, 55.4% of Māori school leavers from MME had attained in Te Reo Māori at level 3 or above, compared to 3.6% of Māori school leavers from English Medium education (EME).
Māori school leavers from MME are also more likely to attain at level 3 in English (22.0% compared to 13.3%), mathematics and statistics (15.9% compared to 13.8%), and the arts (14.8% compared to 9.7%), but less likely to achieve level 3 in sciences (5.2% compared to 9.4%) and social sciences (11.8% compared to 16.2%). Both groups have similar proportions attaining in health and physical education (17.6% and 18.1% respectively).
Female school leavers achieved at a significantly higher rate (59.9%) than their male counterparts (47.7%). However, between 2017 and 2018, the proportion of females with NCEA Level 3 or above decreased by 1.5 percentage points compared to a 0.6 percentage point decrease for males.
Figure 4: Percentage of school leavers with NCEA Level 3 or above by gender (2009 to 2018)
There is a clear positive correlation between the socio-economic mix of the school the student attended and the proportion of school leavers achieving an 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 5: Percentage of school leavers achieving NCEA Level 3 or above, by school decile (2018)
University Entrance Award
In 2018, 39.4% of school leavers achieved a University Entrance Award, a 1.0 percentage point decrease on 2017 (40.4%).
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 65.4%. This was followed by European/Pākehā (43.9%), Pacific (21.9%) and Māori (18.6%)
Female leavers were more likely to obtain University Entrance Award than their male counterparts, at 45.7% compared to 33.3%.
Figure 6: Percentage of school leavers with NZQA university entrance award (2009 to 2018)
- Māori Medium Education is where students are taught all or some curriculum subjects in the Māori language for at least 51 percent of the time (Māori Language Immersion Levels 1-2).
- Total school leavers include school leavers of all ethnic groups in both MME and EME.
- Learners included in learning areas analysis do not include school leavers with international qualifications, or leavers who attended schools where a mix of NCEA and International assessment were offered.
- Attainment is defined as attaining 14 or more credits where the result in standards is achieved, merit, or excellence.
- Standards derived from the New Zealand Curriculum, Te Marautanga o Aotearoa, industry training, and tertiary institutions.
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 (2017). Education at a Glance 2017: OECD indicators. Paris: OECD.
- David Scott. (2018). Post-school labour-market outcomes of school-based NCEA. Wellington: Ministry of Education.
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
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