Education in New Zealand

Southlanders place a high priority on school education, and we pride ourselves on our innovative learning methods. Excellent student/teacher ratios ensure children receive the attention required to maximise learning potential.

From preschool to tertiary study, Southland offers some of the best educational opportunities in New Zealand, with high-quality education facilities encouraging excellent learning environments for students.

New Zealand's education system has three levels:

  • Early childhood education: from birth to school entry age
  • Primary and secondary education: from five to 19 years of age 
  • Further education: higher and vocational education


Early childhood

In New Zealand, it's common for children to start their education before starting primary school at age five. This involves early childhood education options such as kindergartens, daycare centres,  home-based care, play centres and playgroups.

Kindergartens, daycare centres and home-based care are licensed and involve registered teachers, whereas play centres and individual playgroups are parent-led, with parents closely involved in the running of the centre and working with the children.

The government funds the cost of children aged three & four to attend early childhood education service or kōhanga reo, for up to 20 hours per week, for up to 6 hours per day. This is regardless of family income, immigration status or any other reason.

The usual fees and policies regarding this funding will vary from centre to centre. You can find more information on the 20-hours-free scheme here. 

Primary & secondary

Schooling is compulsory from ages 6-16. In most schools, your child can start school on the day they turn five (they don't have to wait until the start of a new school year). However, some schools have a policy of starting children at school together as a group at the beginning of each term (cohort entry). 

The school education system comprises 13-year levels, with primary education starting at Year 1 and going to Year 8 (around 5-12 years of age). Most primary schools in Southland run from year 1 to year 8, although a couple of intermediate schools cater only for year 7 & 8 students. 

Secondary education goes from Year 9 to Year 13 (around 13-17 years of age), and in Southland, a range of co-ed,  single-sex and faith-based schooling options are available. 

Most schools will have zoning in place, meaning you must live within the school's zoning area to gain automatic entry for your child. You can apply to a school outside your zone area, but there will be no guarantees of acceptance. Zoning does not always apply to faith-based schools, but it is best to check with the respective school for more information. 


Once students have completed their secondary level education, there are several tertiary education providers in Southland to choose from if they want to continue studying. These include:

Several New Zealand institutions offer courses and qualifications by distance learning, also known as extramural study, including Southern Insititute of TechnologyMassey University and the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand. 

Coming to New Zealand to Study? 

If you've been living overseas and come to New Zealand to study, you may be eligible for financial assistance.

To qualify, you need to be:

  • a New Zealand citizen or
  • a Resident of New Zealand and either:
    • have been living in New Zealand for at least 3 years while holding a residence class visa, or
    • be a refugee or protected person, or
    • be sponsored into New Zealand by someone in your family who, at the time you were sponsored, was a refugee or protected person.

If you're in one of these situations, you may be able to get a:

  • Student Loan to help pay for your:
    • compulsory course fees
    • course-related costs
    • living costs
  • Student Allowance to help pay for your living costs.