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Primary and secondary education in New Zealand

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Primary and secondary education
All New Zealand citizens, and those entitled to live in New Zealand indefinitely, are entitled to free primary and secondary schooling from their 5th birthday until the end of the calendar year following their 19th birthday. Education is compulsory between a student's 6th and 16th birthdays; however most students start primary school on (or shortly after) their 5th birthday, and the vast majority (around 84%) stay in school until at least their 17th birthday. In some special cases, 15-year-olds can apply for an early leaving exemption from the Ministry of Education (MOE). Families wishing to home-school their children can apply for exemption. To get an exemption from enrolment at a registered school, they must satisfy the Secretary of Education that their child will be taught "as regularly and as well as in a registered school".

A 2008 proposal by the New Zealand Government, called Schools Plus, would see students required to remain in some form of education until age 18. Disabled students with special educational needs can stay until the end of the calendar year they turn 21.

There are three main types of schools in New Zealand: state (public) schools, state-integrated schools, and private (independent) schools. State schools educate approximately 84.9% of students, state-integrated schools educate 11.3%, and private schools educate 3.6%.  There are two additional types of schools: Vote Education schools funded directly out of the education budget, and charter schools (or partnership schools) which are state funded but privately run. These schools however educate only 0.1% of all students.

Years of schooling
New Zealand schools designate school class levels based on the years of schooling of the student cohort, using 13 academic year levels, numbered 1 through to 13. Before 1995, a system of Forms, Standards and Juniors/Primers was used.

Students turning five enter at Year 1 if they begin school at the beginning of the school year or before the cut-off date (31 March in legislation, later for most schools). Students who turn five late in the year may start in Year 0 or stay in Year 1 for the next school year, depending on their academic progress. The Ministry of Education draws a distinction between academic and funding year levels, the latter being based on when a student first starts school—students first starting school after July, who therefore do not appear on the July roll returns, are classified as being in Funding Year 0 that year, and are recorded as being in Year 1 on the next year's roll returns.

Primary education lasts eight years (Years 1–8). Depending on the area, the last two years of primary education may be taken at a primary school, at a secondary school, or at a separate intermediate school.

Students generally transition to secondary education at age 12–13. Secondary education lasts five years (Year 9–13).

Curriculum and qualifications
All state and state integrated schools follow the national curriculum: The New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) for English-medium schools and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa (TMoA) for Māori-medium schools. Private schools do not need to follow the national curriculum, but must have a curriculum that is at least equivalent to NZC or TMoA.

The New Zealand Curriculum has eight levels, numbered 1 to 8, and eight major learning areas: English, the arts, health and physical education, learning languages, mathematics and statistics, science, social sciences, and technology. Te Marautanga o Aotearoa includes a ninth learning area, Māori language.

The main secondary school qualification in New Zealand is the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA), which is offered in all state and state-integrated schools. Some schools offer Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) or the International Baccalaureate (IB) alongside NCEA.


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