Center on International Education Benchmarking

New Zealand: System and School Organization

Overview | Teacher and Principal Quality | Instructional Systems
System and School Organization | Education For All | School-to-Work Transition

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 This profile has been archived and is no longer being updated.

Education Finance

Public schools are nationally funded. The Ministry of Education directs funds to schools through four streams: operations grants, staff salaries, school property funding and school transportation assistance. However, if the board of trustees elects to do so, they may take the funding for staff salaries as a lump sum, rather than in individual salaries, and allocate it as they see fit.

The Ministry also funds five organizations that provide educational services: Careers Service, Early Childhood Development Unit, Education & Training Support Agency, New Zealand Qualifications Authority and Specialist Education Services.

While all state schools are ostensibly free to all students, many schools solicit voluntary contributions from parents to supplement government funding, typically adding up to a few hundred dollars a year. However, schools are not allowed to require that parents make these donations. They may exclude students from extracurricular activities if they have not paid for them. These contributions have a large impact on a school’s prestige, because they have greater resources than schools that receive only government funding.

About 3.4% of students attend private schools in New Zealand. The number of private schools is rapidly declining as the government is integrating them into the state school system. These schools receive 30–40% of their funding from the government, and the rest from student tuition.  Integrated schools – private schools that have been integrated into the state school system – retain their philosophical or religious principles and include these in their curriculum while also adhering to the National Education Guidelines.

In 2008, New Zealand spent $7,218 per student from primary through tertiary education, as compared to the OECD average of $8,831. Total education spending on primary and secondary school students that year amounts to 4.5% of New Zealand’s GDP, quite a bit higher than the OECD average of 3.8%.

School Management and Organization

The structure of the education system is determined at the national level, through the Ministry of Education. There are several other units and offices that have important roles in ensuring that the system runs smoothly. These include the Education Review Office, which is New Zealand’s educational evaluation and reporting authority; the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, which accredits secondary and post-secondary certificates; and the Specialist Education Services, which manages special education programs.

At the local level, schools are run by individual school boards of trustees, made up of the school principal, a staff representative and elected parent and community volunteers, and are responsible for making staffing decisions, among others. At the secondary school level, the board must also include a student representative. These boards develop school charters, which are approved by the Minister of Education. The charters set school goals and objectives and establish assessment policies, while also outlining how the school will adhere to the National Education Guidelines. Within the school, the principal is responsible for day-to-day management and for part of the assessment of staff performance.

Accountability and Incentive Systems

Since 1997, New Zealand has had a performance management system for all school administrators and teachers. This is run by the New Zealand School Trustees Association (NZSTA), which provides uniform standards for teacher and principal performance in primary and secondary schools. Each school’s board of trustees is responsible for monitoring and assessing the school staff, and additionally for providing the staff with support and a clear understanding of what is expected of them. Boards are responsible for hiring, reviewing and terminating staff if the staff cannot perform their jobs appropriately. The Ministry of Education furnishes several awards each year to teachers and administrators who are particularly effective, in categories such as special education.

Parent and Community Participation

The New Zealand ministry actively encourages parent and community involvement in education, and provides a number of resources for adults to learn more about what their child is learning and how they can help them at home, including numerous suggested activities for all school levels. Parents can help to set policy at the school level by sitting on a school’s board of trustees, or by joining a local PTA. In order to encourage the effectiveness of PTAs, New Zealand has a national PTA (NZPTA) that provides information and resources to local PTAs and to school boards of trustees. In addition to encouraging parental involvement and collaboration between local educational groups and stakeholders, the NZPTA also serves as a lobby organization for its membership, which is made up of nearly 200 local PTAs.

Annual Expenditure by Educational Institutions per Student for All Services

New Zealand School Expenditure(2013, in equivalent USD converted using PPPs for GDP, public institutions only) Source:OECD

The New Zealand ministry has also made an effort to seek the increased involvement of the parents and communities of Maori students. Because Maori students have traditionally been underserved by the New Zealand public education system, and because the Maori have a strong tradition of whanau, or extended family and community involvement in a child’s development, the government has adopted this terminology in their official documents, believing that by framing participation in terms of Maori culture, they will be able to promote increased community interest in schools and schooling, while making the school system more accessible to members of this group. The Ministry of Education now offers advice for parents, guardians and whanau members when promoting increased involvement in education, recognizing that many students have a larger and different kind of support system.


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