School leavers with NCEA Level 1 or above

What We Have Found

In 2018, 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: October 2019

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. Every year around 60,000 young people leave school and face choices about what to do next. Not being in employment or further education or training (NEET) is between 15%-17% of school leavers. Leavers with NCEA 1 have just as much chance finding work and earning as much as their non-UE NCEA 2 or 3 peers, at least initially. Leavers with NCEA 1, while half as likely to be in NEET as those with no school achievement, are nearly twice as likely to be in NEET as their NCEA 2 or 3 peers. (Scott, 2018).

In 2015, New Zealand people with no qualifications earn around 13% less than those with an upper secondary education, compared with the OECD average of 22%. (OECD, 2017).

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 2018, 88.8% of all school leavers attained at least NCEA Level 1 or equivalent.  Since 2009 (80.9%), there has been an 8.0 percentage point increase with respect to those who attain at least NCEA Level 1 or equivalent. Compared to 2017, there has been a 1.0 percentage point decrease in the proportion of school leavers who attain at least NCEA Level 1 or equivalent.

Female school leavers (90.5%) achieved at a higher rate than their male counterparts (87.2%).

When looking at ethnicity, in 2018, 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 lower rates of attainment.

Figure 1: Percentage of total school leavers with at least an NCEA Level 1 qualification or equivalent (2009 to 2018)

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 2018, the proportion of Asian school leavers attaining at least NCEA Level 1 or equivalent was 95.0%, which was 3.7 percentage points higher than the percentage for European/Pākehā (91.3%). Pacific was 85.5% and Māori was 79.7%.

From 2009 to 2018 there have been increases in the proportion of school leavers achieving at least NCEA Level 1 or equivalent across 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 16.4 between 2009 (63.3%) and 2018 (79.7%). The increase of Pacific school leavers achieving at least level 1 was 11.8 percentage points between 2009 (73.7%) and 2018 (85.5%). The proportion of Asian leavers with level 1 or above increased 5.7 percentage points from 2009 (89.3%) to 2018 (95.0%) and European/Pākehā school leavers had a similar percentage point increase of 5.7 over the same period (85.6% in 2009 to 91.3% in 2018).

From 2017 to 2018 the proportion of leavers achieving a minimum of NCEA Level 1 or equivalent had an overall decrease.

Figure 2: Percentage of total school leavers with at least an NCEA Level 1 qualification or equivalent 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)when they left school. This proportion has increased 0.8 percentage points in last year.

In 2018, 88.1% of Māori school leavers from MME achieved at least NCEA Level 1 or equivalent, up 1.4 percentage points from 2017. However the proportion of Māori school leavers from English Medium Education (EME) who achieved at least NCEA Level 1 or equivalent was 79.4%, down 1.8 percentage points from 2017.

Figure 3: Percentage of school leavers with at least an NCEA Level 1 qualification or equivalent by education type (2009 to 2018)

Learnersin Māori Medium education (MME) have high rates of attainmentin Māori language standard.In 2018, 81.6% of Māori school leavers from MME had attained in Te Reo Māori at level 1 or above, compared to 11.3% of Māori school leavers from English Medium education (EME).

Māori school leavers from MME are also more likely to attain at level 1 in English (62.3% compared to 60.0%), mathematics and statistics (56.8% compared to 50.9%), and the arts (35.6% compared to 30.1%), but less likely to achieve level 1 in sciences (37.4% compared to 45.4%) and social sciences (29.4% compared to 38.3%). Both groups have similar proportions attaining in health and physical education (50.7% and 51.2% respectively).

Gender

From 2009 to 2018 there has been a consistent pattern of female leavers attaining NCEA Level 1 or equivalent at higher rates than male leavers. In 2018, 90.5% of female school leavers achieved requirement compared to 87.2% of males.

The size of the gender gap has decreased since 2009 with the difference decreasing from 4.4 percentage points to 2.4 percentage points in 2017, but has increased in 2018 to 3.3 percentage points.

The proportion of females and males attaining level 1 in 2018 has decreased 0.5 and 1.4 percentage points respectively between 2017 and 2018.

Figure 4: Percentage of total school leavers with at least an NCEA Level 1 qualification or equivalent by gender (2009 to 2018)

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 2018, 96.3% of students from schools in the highest deciles (deciles 9 and 10) left school with at least a level 1 qualification.  This was 17.3 percentage points higher than the lowest two deciles (79.0%). However, while there may be a difference in the decile groupings, we can see in figure 4 that there is a large variation in the percentage of school leavers attaining at least an NCEA Level 1 amongst schools within each decile. A couple of decile 1 and 2 schools have pass rates that exceed that of decile 9 and 10 schools.

Figure 5: Percentage of total school leavers with at least an NCEA Level 1 qualification or equivalent by decile (2018)

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 from the 8 credits required in 2012. No historical adjustment has been made for this change, and the change may have had a minor effect on the level 1 attainment for 2013 onwards compared with earlier years.

In 2018, 90.9% of all school leavers achieved NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy. This is a 6.6 percentage point increase in level 1 literacy and numeracy attainment overall since 2009, but is a 0.8 percentage point decrease since 2017(91.7%).

Consistent with previous years, female school leavers (92.4%) achieved at a higher rate than their male counterparts (89.5%).

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

Figure 6: Percentage of total school leavers with NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy (2009 to 2018)

Ethnic Group

The proportion of Asian school leavers achieving NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy was 95.6% in 2018, which was 2.5 percentage points higher than that of European/Pākehā (93.1%). Pacific was 88.4% and Māori was 83.3%.

From 2009 to 2018, all ethnic groups saw an improvement in school leaver NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy achievement rates, with Māori leavers showing the biggest improvement (13.2 percentage points), followed by Pacific leavers (10.1 percentage points), Asian leavers (5.1 percentage points) and European/Pākehā leavers (4.6 percentage points).

2018 has seen an overall decrease in the proportion of leavers achieving NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy.  Māori leavers had a decrease of 1.3 percentage points, Pacific had 0.9 percentage point decrease, followed by Asian (0.9 percentage points) and European/Pākehā (0.7 percentage points).

Figure 7: Percentage of total school leavers with NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy 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)1 when they left school. This proportion has increased 0.8 percentage points in last year.

In 2018, 89.8% of Māori school leavers from MME achieved NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy, up 1.9 percentage points from 2017. However the proportion of Māori school leavers from English Medium Education (EME) who achieved at least NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy was 83.0%, down 1.5 percentage points from 2017.

Figure 8: Percentage of school leavers with at least an NCEA Level 1 qualification or equivalent by education type (2009 to 2018)  

Gender

Since 2009 there has been a consistent pattern of female leavers attaining NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy requirements at higher rates than male leavers. In 2018, 92.4% of female school leavers achieved the requirement, compared with 89.5% of their male counterparts. The size of the gender gap has decreased since 2009 from 4.0 percentage points to 2.2 percentage points in 2017, but the gender gap has increased to 2.8 percentage points in 2018.

Compared to 2017, the proportion of males attaining level 1 in 2018 has decreased 1.1 percentage points while the proportion of female decreased 0.4 percentage points.

Figure 9: Percentage of total school leavers with NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy by gender (2009 to 2018)

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.

In 2018, 97.2% of students from schools in the highest deciles (deciles 9 and 10) left school with at least a level 1 literacy and numeracy.  This was 14.4 percentage points higher than the lowest two deciles (82.8%). However, while there may be a difference in the decile groupings, we can see in figure 8 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 decile 9 and 10 schools.

Figure 10: Percentage of total school leavers with NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy by decile (2018)

Footnotes

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. Attainment is defined as attaining 14 or more credits where the result in standards is achieved, merit, or excellence.
  4. Standards derived from the New Zealand Curriculum, Te Marautanga o Aotearoa, industry training, and tertiary institutions.

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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