Center on International Education Benchmarking

New Zealand was among CIEB’s Top Performing Countries for 2009. This profile has been archived and is no longer being updated.

Student Support Systems

New Zealand also has number of measures in place to help struggling students. One of the main areas of focus is literacy. The Ministry of Education has developed a Literacy and Numeracy strategy; initiatives under this strategy range from placing Literacy Development Officers and tutors in schools to making additional funding available to schools with interesting proposals to improve their literacy rates. Through the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy, teachers have access to a range of resources and materials to help them work with struggling students. The ministry’s goal is a 100% proficiency rate among nine-year-olds in reading, writing and mathematics.

New Zealand has, in recent years, taken a proactive approach to addressing the achievement gap between Maori and Pasifika students and students with European or Asian heritage. In the late 1990s, the Ministry of Education began an extensive consultation with Maori about developing a system that would meet these students’ needs and produce educational success. The initial goals were to improve English-language education for Maori, increase Maori involvement in the education authority, and support the growth of Maori-language schools. These goals produced a degree of improvement, and in 2006, the Ministry updated and extended the priorities and initiatives. The government is also in the process of incorporating Maori culture and voices into overall policy decisions. The government has also formulated separate, but similar, plans and initiatives for members of Pasifika groups, who also have been traditionally left out of much of New Zealand’s mainstream educational success.

All students with special needs have the legal right to both primary and secondary education in New Zealand, and equal access to all educational resources. The New Zealand government considers all developmental or learning disabilities to be special needs, and provides a wide variety of resources tailored to a child’s particular needs. These include special support and therapy, the presence of specially trained staff in schools, specialist equipment and transportation and modification of existing physical structures to facilitate a child’s inclusion in a school. The 2010-2011 action plan also stressed the importance of ensuring that each child with special educational needs met the best literacy and numeracy standards for them, and would leave their schooling prepared to participate productively in New Zealand society in the ways that would work best for them. In 2001, an estimated 2% of all New Zealand students engaged in some type of special education activity; the Ministry of Health estimates this number to be about 17% of all disabled students, with the majority either remaining in mainstream school or not attending school. There is a similar special education strategy for Maori children with special needs, designed to serve these students in accordance with their own culture, and in their own language.

Low-Performing Schools

The Ministry of Education monitors low-performing schools through the Education Review Office (ERO) review cycles. Once a school is identified as low performing, the Ministry intervenes. The extent of Ministry intervention depends on the performance of the school, and can range from suggesting specialist help to dissolving the school board and appointing a commissioner to take over the school’s charter and operational oversight. Often, the Ministry will appoint a temporary “limited statutory manager” to take over the majority of the board’s duties until the school has sufficiently improved.

Another common strategy is school clustering, in which multiple schools develop a mutual business plan and in turn receive additional funding for professional development, extracurricular programs and classroom resources. High-performing schools benefit from the cluster system because of the increased funding they receive, while low-performing schools gain both funding and insight and support from the teachers and administrators at the high-performing schools.

Between 2010 and 2015, as a part of a plan to address the educational achievement gap, the Ministry has committed $20.7 million to professional development for education staff. The development will focus on literacy and numeracy and on assessment and leadership, so that schools may more readily identify struggling students or groups and will have strong leaders to navigate educational challenges. An additional $28 million will go directly to low-performing schools.

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