Secondary Education in New Zealand
(also called High School or College)

The final 2-3 years of New Zealand Secondary School teaches life skills, prepares for Tertiary study and allows you to choose specialised subjects.

Attending a New Zealand Secondary School is also a very good way to improve your level of English (IELTS) for further studies – and could make a foundation year unnecessary.

  • There are about 400 secondary schools in New Zealand
  • Four terms - Start January, April, July and October
  • Year 9 & 10 - study basic core of subjects – internal assessments only
  • Year 11 (NCEA Level 1) - begins to specialise, but Mathematics, English and general Science remains key subjects
  • Year 12 (NCEA Level 2) - specialise to 6 subjects, must include English
  • Year 13 (NCEA Level 3) - study 4-6 subjects relevant to intended course at tertiary institution

The qualifications are called ‘National Certificates’ because they are based on ‘National’ standards administered by NZQA.

The New Zealand secondary education system fits well within other secondary education programmes throughout the world.

NCEA enables students to use secondary education as a pathway to New Zealand tertiary education. All levels are recognised by New Zealand’s tertiary education providers.

The National Certificate of Educational Achievement programme (NCEA) is the main national qualification for secondary students in Years 11-13.

NCEA replaces the previous qualifications of School Certificate (Year 11), Sixth Form Certificate (Year 12), and Bursary & Higher School Certificate (Year 13).


Onslow College, Wellington, NZ