Center on International Education Benchmarking

New Zealand: Teacher and Principal Quality

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 This profile has been archived and is no longer being updated.

There are a number of pathways to becoming a teacher in New Zealand including completion of an undergraduate education program or a post-graduate certificate program following receipt of an undergraduate degree. These programs generally require an applicant to have a solid academic record and an expressed interest in working with children. Beginning teachers must meet nationally recognized Graduating Teacher Standards before licensure, and once in the classroom they have access to a number of support systems, including being assigned to work closely with a senior teacher during the first year on the job. A large amount of teachers’ time in the early years of their careers is dedicated to professional development Beginning teachers’ salaries are quite competitive, though teachers reach the top of the pay scale quickly. At the top of the scale teachers’ salaries are 1.5 times the GDP per capita, which is lower than the OECD average of 1.65.

Recruitment and Compensation

There are no uniform admissions standards into teacher education programs. Only seven universities offer teacher education programs. Some of these institutions require candidates to undergo an interview with a panel of education professionals or be assessed for suitability for the teaching profession in addition to requiring applicants to have good secondary school records. Teacher education programs are regulated by the New Zealand Teachers Council, a professional association formed to represent New Zealand’s teachers and to promote the teaching profession. The Council was established by the Education Standards Act of 2001, which directed the Council to provide professional leadership for teachers, contribute to a safe and high quality teaching and learning environment, and to enhance the professional status of teachers. Of the 11 members of the Council, four are elected by teachers; three are nominated by teachers unions; and the remaining four are appointed by the Minister of Education. The Council also maintains a set of graduation standards that all teacher candidates must meet before they are allowed to enter the classroom.

The New Zealand Ministry of Education also runs the TeachNZ program, which manages teacher recruitment from within the New Zealand population as well as from abroad. TeachNZ provides incentives to teachers and potential teachers such as small scholarships for continuing education, and also serves as a repository of information about teacher education and career prospects.

The Ministry of Education reports that the average salary for a secondary school teacher in 2010 was $54,000. The New Zealand GDP per capita is $29,352 USD, making teaching a competitive profession in terms of compensation. The OECD average for a lower secondary school teacher at the top of the pay scale is $51,317.
The OECD did not report New Zealand teachers’ salaries in their most recent set of education statistics. However, it did report that in 2008, a lower secondary school teacher with 15 years of experience makes about one and a half times the GDP per capita.

Initial Education and Training

Multiple types of institutions offer teacher education. Among these are universities, colleges of education, polytechnic colleges and private teacher training establishments. Teachers must either complete a three- or four-year bachelor’s of education, or a one- to two-year teaching diploma program after receiving a bachelor’s degree in another subject. Secondary teachers must have specific subject knowledge in at least one, but sometimes as many as three subjects.

All prospective teachers must become registered. Individuals cannot be registered as teachers if they fail to meet the minimum quality standards set by the New Zealand government. Teachers may also have their registration cancelled if they fall below this standard at any point in their careers. Upon graduation from a teacher-training program, a teacher must apply for provisional registration, which lasts for two years. After completing two years as a provisional teacher under the supervision of a fully registered teacher and meeting the New Zealand Teachers’ Council “satisfactory teacher” criteria, a teacher may become a registered teacher. Once on the job, teachers work closely with a supervising teacher (known as an associate teacher) and senior staff in their first year, and also receive a time allowance (work hours not spent in the classroom) in the first two years to continue professional development.

Teacher training programs are subject to qualification standards. There are two sets of standards determined by the New Zealand Teachers’ Council: Initial Teacher Education Requirements and Graduating Teacher Standards. The former serve to  regulate teacher training programs, and are also used as the basis for regular evaluations by the New Zealand Teachers’ Council. The Teacher Graduation Standards outline the content areas and teaching competencies required for licensure. While there is no required curriculum for teacher education programs, there are four areas that every program must address: professional knowledge (including deep understanding of the national curriculum), professional practice, professional relationships and professional leadership.

Ratio of Lower Secondary Teachers’ Salary GDP per Capita (2014)

NewZealandTeacherSalary2016Source: OECD

Career Ladders

Teachers in New Zealand have the opportunity to pursue post-graduate training and to progress either within the school system (either in an administrative role, such as principal, or to a specialized role, such as counselor or special education teacher) or in the Ministry of Education or other government agency in a policy or advisory role. The traditional progression within the school is from teacher to subject head, to curriculum specialist, followed by the roles of deputy principal and principal.

Professional Development

Professional development for teachers is managed through a number of organizations, including the Ministry of Education. The Ministry provides specific guidelines for teacher training in special education and English as a second language, as well as numerous teaching resources to help teachers understand and teach the New Zealand Curriculum as it rolls out across the country. The Ministry also provides sabbatical funding and scholarships for teachers pursuing higher education. Workshops, seminars, conferences, training videos and tertiary courses on various issues such as ICT training or special education are also available through the New Zealand Teachers’ Council and the New Zealand Educational Institute, as well as some universities. In the first two years of their career, teachers undergo heavy professional development, including one day out of the classroom each week in their first year dedicated solely to additional training and development.


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