School leavers with NCEA Level 1 or above

What We Have Found

In 2017, eighty-nine percent of school leavers achieved at least NCEA Level 1 and ninety-one percent achieved NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy.

Date Updated: September 2018

Indicator Description

Percentage of school leavers with at least an NCEA Level 1 qualification or equivalent.

Why This Is Important

The attainment of an upper secondary school qualification is linked to labour force status and incomes.  In 2011 New Zealanders with no qualifications had an unemployment rate 48% higher than those whose highest qualification was a school qualification (OECD, 2013).

The National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) Level 1 is the first stage of upper-secondary education, and serves as a foundation for further study and/or employment.  NCEA Level 1, as with all levels of NCEA, encompasses a wide range of learning.  Students can attain credits through internal and external assessment, and they can accumulate these credits both within and across years.

How We Are Going

In 2017, 89.6% of all school leavers attained at least NCEA Level 1 or equivalent.  Since 2009 (80.9%), there has been a 8.7 percentage point increase with respect to those who attain at least NCEA Level 1 or equivalent. Compared to 2016, there has been a 0.2 percentage point decrease in the proportion of school leavers who attain at least NCEA Level 1 or equivalent.

Female school leavers (90.7%) achieved at a higher rate than their male counterparts (88.5%).

When looking at ethnicity, in 2017, Asian students had the highest proportion of school leavers attaining at least NCEA Level 1 or equivalent, followed by European/Pākehā.  Pacific and Māori school leavers had the lowest rates of attainment.

Figure 1: Percentage of total school leavers with at least an NCEA Level 1 qualification or equivalent (2009 to 2017)

Ethnic Group

Total response ethnicity collection involves counting people who identify with more than one ethnic group in each of these ethnic groups. For the New Zealand total, individuals are counted only once. When looking at ethnicity in this way in 2017, Asian students had the highest proportion of school leavers attaining at least NCEA Level 1 or equivalent (95.8%), which was 3.6 percentage points higher than the percentage for European/Pākehā (92.2%). Pacific (86.3%) and Māori (80.9%) school leavers had the lowest rates of NCEA Level 1 or equivalent attainment.

From 2009 to 2017 there have been increases in the proportion of school leavers achieving at least NCEA Level 1 or equivalent from all ethnic groups. Māori have had the largest increase in the proportion of leavers attaining at least level 1, with a percentage point increase of 17.6 between 2009 (63.3%) and 2017 (80.9%). The increase of Pacific school leavers achieving at least level 1 was 12.6 percentage points between 2009 (73.7%) and 2017 (86.3%). The proportion of Asian leavers with level 1 or above increased 6.5 percentage points from 2009 (89.3%) to 2017 (95.8%) and European/Pākehā school leavers had a similar percentage point increase of 6.6 over the same period (85.6% in 2009 to 92.2% in 2017).

From 2016 to 2017 the proportion of leavers achieving a minimum of NCEA Level 1 or equivalent increased for Asian and European/Pākehā leavers while decreased for Māori and Pacific leavers. The largest increase was seen in Asian with a 0.3 percentage point improvement while the largest decrease was seen in Pacific with a 0.6 percentage point decrease.

Figure 2: Percentage of total school leavers with at least an NCEA Level 1 qualification or equivalent by ethnic group (2009 to 2017)

Gender

From 2009 to 2016 there has been a consistent pattern of females attaining NCEA Level 1 or equivalent at higher rates than males. In 2017, the trend of female school leavers achieving at a higher rate than their male counterparts continued: 90.7% of females compared to 88.5% of males. However, the size of the gender gap is closing with the difference of 4.4 percentage points in 2009 now being reduced to 2.2 percentage points in 2017.

The proportion of males and females attaining level 1 in 2017 has either decreased or remained the same compared to 2016 with females showing a decrease of 0.4 percentage points and males remaining the same.

Figure 3: Percentage of total school leavers with at least an NCEA Level 1 qualification or equivalent by gender (2009 to 2017)

Decile

A clear positive correlation can be seen between the socio-economic mix of the school the student attended and the percentage of school leavers attaining at least an NCEA Level 1 qualification or equivalent.  Schools in the lowest deciles (deciles 1 and 2) draw their students from communities with the highest degree of socio-economic disadvantage.

In 2017, 96.7% of students from schools in the highest deciles (deciles 9 and 10) left school with at least a level 1 qualification.  This was 16.7 percentage points higher than the lowest two deciles (80.0%). However, while there may be a difference in the decile groupings, we can see in the figure below that there is a large variation in the percentage of school leavers attaining at least an NCEA Level 1 amongst schools within each decile. Some decile 1 and 2 schools have pass rates that exceed that of many decile 9 and 10 schools.

Figure 4: Percentage of total school leavers with at least an NCEA Level 1 qualification or equivalent by decile (2017)

How We Are Going

From 2013 onwards, students were required to obtain 10 literacy and 10 numeracy credits to achieve the NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy criteria requirements, an increase on the 8 credits required in 2012. No historical adjustment has been made for this change and it may have had a minor effect on the level 1 attainment for 2013 onwards compared with earlier years.

In 2017, 91.5% of all school leavers achieved NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy. This is a 7.1 percentage point increase in level 1 literacy and numeracy attainment overall since 2009, and is a 0.1 percentage point decrease since 2016.

Consistent with previous years, female school leavers (92.6%) achieved at a higher rate than their male counterparts (90.5%).

Asian school leavers were found to have the highest proportion achieving NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy followed closely by European/Pākehā leavers. Pacific and Māori had the lowest proportions of school leavers achieving NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy.

Figure 5: Percentage of total school leavers with NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy (2009 to 2017)

Ethnic Group

Asian students had the highest proportion of school leavers achieving NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy, with 96.4% in 2017, which was 2.6 percentage points higher than that of European/Pākehā (93.8%). Pacific (89.1%) and Māori (84.3%) students had the lowest proportions of leavers achieving NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy.

Since 2016 the proportion of leavers achieving NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy increased for Māori (0.4 percentage points), Asian (0.2 percentage points) and European/Pākehā (0.2 percentage points), but slightly decreased for Pacific (0.8 percentage points). The level 1 literacy and numeracy achievement disparity between Māori and all other ethnic groups persisted in 2017.

From 2009 to 2017, all ethnic groups saw an improvement in school leaver NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy achievement rates, with Māori leavers showing the biggest improvement (14.3 percentage points), followed by Pacific leavers (10.9 percentage points), Asian leavers (5.9 percentage points) and European/Pākehā leavers (5.3 percentage points)

Figure 6: Percentage of total school leavers with NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy by ethnic group (2009 to 2017)

Gender

Since 2009 there has been a consistent pattern of females attaining NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy requirements at higher rates than males. In 2017, 92.6% of female school leavers achieved the requirement, compared with 90.5% of their male counterparts. However the size of the gender gap has closed since 2009 with the difference decreasing from 4.0 percentage points to 2.1 percentage points in 2017.

The proportion of males attaining level 1 in 2017 has increased compared to 2016 showing an increase of 0.1 percentage points while the proportion of the female counterparts showed a decrease of 0.2 percentage points.

Figure 7: Percentage of total school leavers with NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy by gender (2009 to 2017)

Decile

A positive correlation can be seen between the socio-economic mix of the school the student attended and the percentage of school leavers achieving NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy. Due to a generally high achievement of Level 1 literacy and numeracy, there is a clear ceiling effect present as shown in the figure below. However, the general trend is still evident.

Figure 8: Percentage of total school leavers with NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy by decile (2017)

References

Evidence about what works for this indicator can be found in:

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.

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