School leavers with NCEA Level 1 or above

What We Have Found

In 2019, 88 percent of school leavers achieved at least an NCEA Level 1 certificate and 90 percent achieved NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy.

Date Updated: August 2020.

Indicator Description

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

Why This Is Important

The National Certificate of Educational Achievement Level 1 (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.

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, further education or training (NEET) affects between 15%-17% of school leavers.

Leavers with NCEA Level 1 have just as much chance of finding work and earning as much as their NCEA Level 2 or 3 peers who do not attain University Entrance (non-UE), at least initially. Leavers with NCEA 1, while half as likely to be NEET as those with no school achievement, are nearly twice as likely to be NEET as their NCEA 2 or 3 peers. (Scott, 2018).

In 2018, New Zealanders with no qualifications earned around 12% less than those with an upper secondary education, compared with the OECD average of 18%. (OECD, 2019).

How We Are Going

In 2019, 87.9% of all school leavers attained at least NCEA Level 1 or equivalent.  Compared to 2018, there has been a 1.5 percentage point decrease in the proportion of school leavers who attain at least NCEA Level 1 or equivalent. Since 2009, there has been a 7.0 percentage point increase with respect to those who attain at least NCEA Level 1 or equivalent (80.9%).

In 2019, female school leavers (89.4%) achieved at a higher rate than their male counterparts (86.4%).When looking at ethnicity, Asian students had the highest proportion of school leavers attaining at least NCEA Level 1 or equivalent in 2019 (94.5%), followed by European/Pākehā (90.4%).

Figure 1: Percentage of total school leavers with at least an NCEA Level 1 qualification or equivalent (2009 to 2019)

Ethnicity

In 2019, the proportion of Asian school leavers attaining at least NCEA Level 1 or equivalent was 94.5%, which was 4.1 percentage points higher than the percentage for European/Pākehā (90.4%). Pacific was 84.2% and Māori was 78.3%.

From 2018 to 2019 the proportion of leavers achieving a minimum of NCEA Level 1 or equivalent had an overall decrease. Māori leavers had a decrease of 2.0 percentage points, Pacific had a 1.9 percentage point decrease, followed by European/Pākehā (decreased 1.4 percentage points) and Asian school leavers (0.6 percentage points).

However, from 2009 to 2019 there have been increases in the proportion of school leavers achieving at least NCEA Level 1 or equivalent across all ethnic groups, especially for Māori school leavers.

Figure 2: Percentage of total school leavers with at least an NCEA Level 1 qualification or equivalent by ethnic group (2009 to 2019)

Māori Medium Education

Of the 15,104 Māori students who left school in 2019, 3.9% of them were learning in Māori Medium Education (MME) when they left school. This proportion decreased 0.4 percentage points in last year.

In 2019, 88.6% of Māori school leavers from MME achieved at least NCEA Level 1 or equivalent, up 0.5 percentage points from 2018. However the proportion of Māori school leavers from English Medium Education (EME) who achieved at least NCEA Level 1 or equivalent was 77.8%, down 2.7 percentage points from 2018.

Figure 3: Percentage of school leavers with at least an NCEA Level 1 qualification or equivalent by education type (2009 to 2019)

Learners in Māori Medium education (MME) have high rates of attainment in Māori language standards. In 2019, 82.7% of Māori school leavers from MME had attained in Te Reo Māori at level 1 or above, compared to 10.8% 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 (61.7% compared to 58.7%), mathematics and statistics (55.0% compared to 49.7%), and the arts (35.2% compared to 30.0%), but less likely to achieve level 1 in sciences (28.9% compared to 42.6%), social sciences (32.0% compared to 37.8%), and health and physical education (43.3% and 49.8% respectively).

Gender

There has been a consistent pattern of female leavers attaining NCEA Level 1 or equivalent at higher rates than male leavers since 2009. In 2019, 89.4% of female school leavers achieved requirement compared to 86.4% of males.

Compared to 2018, the proportion of females and males attaining level 1 in 2019 has decreased 1.8 and 1.5 percentage points respectively.

However, the size of the gender gap has decreased since 2009 with the difference decreasing from 4.4 percentage points to 3.0 percentage points in 2019, the smallest gender gap was 2.4 percentage points in 2017.

Figure 4: Percentage of total school leavers with at least an NCEA Level 1 qualification or equivalent by gender (2009 to 2019)

Decile

A clear positive correlation can be seen between the socio-economic mix of the school (school decile) 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 2019, 95.8% of students from schools in the highest deciles (deciles 9 and 10) left school with at least a level 1 qualification.  This was 18.0 percentage points higher than the lowest two deciles (77.8%). However, while there may be a difference in the decile groupings, there is a large variation in the percentage of school leavers attaining at least an NCEA Level 1 amongst schools within each decile (see Figure 5). Some decile 1 and 2 schools have pass rates that exceed rates at some decile 9 and 10 schools.

Figure 5: Percentage of total school leavers with at least an NCEA Level 1 qualification or equivalent by decile (2019)

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 2019, 90.2% of all school leavers achieved NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy. This is a 5.8 percentage point increase in level 1 literacy and numeracy attainment overall since 2009, but is a 1.2 percentage point decrease since 2018 (91.4%).

Consistent with previous years, female school leavers (91.6%) achieved at a higher rate than their male counterparts (88.8%).

Asian school leavers were found to have the highest proportion achieving NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy (95.4%), followed by European/Pākehā leavers (92.5%). Pacific (87.5%) and Māori (82.1%) 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 2019)

Ethnicity

The proportion of Asian school leavers achieving NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy was 95.4% in 2019, which was 2.9 percentage points higher than that of European/Pākehā (92.5%). Pacific was 87.5% and Māori was 82.1%.

Compared to 2018, 2019 has seen an overall decrease in the proportion of leavers achieving NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy.  Māori leavers had a decrease of 2.0 percentage points, Pacific had a 1.3 percentage point decrease, followed by European/Pākehā (decreased 1.0 percentage points) and Asian (decreased 0.3 percentage points).

However, from 2009 to 2019, all ethnic groups saw an improvement in school leaver NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy achievement rates, with Māori leavers showing the biggest improvement (12.1 percentage points), followed by Pacific leavers (9.3 percentage points), Asian leavers (4.9 percentage points) and European/Pākehā leavers (4.0 percentage points).

Figure 7: Percentage of total school leavers with NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy by ethnic group (2009 to 2019)

Māori Medium Education

Of the 15,104 Māori students who left school in 2019, 3.9% of them were learning in Māori Medium Education (MME) when they left school. This proportion decreased 0.4 percentage points in last year.

In 2019, 90.6% of Māori school leavers from MME achieved NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy, up 0.6 percentage points from 2018, and 0.4 percentage points higher than that of total school leavers in 2019. However the proportion of Māori school leavers from English Medium Education (EME) who achieved at least NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy was 81.7%, down 2.2 percentage points from 2018.

Figure 8: Percentage of school leavers with at least an NCEA Level 1 qualification or equivalent by education type (2009 to 2019)  

Gender

There has been a consistent pattern of female leavers attaining NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy requirements at higher rates than male leavers since 2009. In 2019, 91.6% of female school leavers achieved the requirement, compared with 88.8% of their male counterparts. Compared to 2018, the proportion of attaining level 1 in 2019 has decreased 1.2 percentage points for both female and male students.

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 both 2018 and 2019.

Figure 9: Percentage of total school leavers with NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy by gender (2009 to 2019)

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 2019, 95.8% 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 18.0 percentage points higher than the lowest two deciles (77.8%). However, while there may be a difference in the decile groupings, we can see in figure 10 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 those at some decile 9 and 10 schools.

Figure 10: Percentage of total school leavers with NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy by decile (2019)

Footnotes

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. Learners included in learning areas analysis do not include school leavers with international qualifications,
  4. Attainment is defined as attaining 14 or more credits where the result in standards is achieved, merit, or excellence.
  5. Standards derived from the New Zealand Curriculum, Te Marautanga o Aotearoa, industry training, and tertiary institutions
  6. 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).
  7. Deciles are used to provide funding to state and state-integrated schools to enable them to overcome the barriers to learning faced by students from lower socio-economic communities. Students from schools with a higher decile have a smaller proportion of students with the lowest socio-economic factors.

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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