Secondary school and NCEA

Download a brochure for international students considering studying NCEA in New Zealand (PDF, 635KB).

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New Zealand offers quality schooling at the secondary level. Secondary study is approximately five years long, from year 9 to year 13, and begins when students are 12 or 13 years old. New Zealand students must attend school until they are 16 years old.

Most secondary schools in New Zealand are state-owned, and teach a nationally set curriculum. There are also privately owned secondary schools, most of which are based on specific philosophic or religious traditions.

New Zealand's secondary schools offer national qualifications that are recognised by tertiary institutions in New Zealand and internationally. In New Zealand, all national secondary qualifications are monitored and checked by government and sector agencies.

National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA)

The main secondary school qualifications in New Zealand are the National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA).

NCEA is awarded at three levels, known as level 1, 2 and 3. Students usually begin studying for their level 1 NCEA in year 11 and continue through years 12 and 13.

There are also many vocational qualifications available and offered in secondary schools. They include, for example, the National Certificate of Tourism, National Certificate in Computing, and National Certificate of Motor Engineering.

For more information, see:


There is also a New Zealand Scholarship award, which recognises very able students. Students attempting this separate assessment are usually in Year 13.

Secondary schools statistics

Secondary school results reports provide data on how schools perform in NCEA and other national qualifications.

To view data for an individual school, groups of schools or nationally, see secondary school statistics.

Further information

For more information, see:

'Understanding NCEA' booklet (PDF, 2.5MB)

'Understanding NCEA' DVD

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