Quality education helps set up New Zealanders to succeed and thrive in life. The evidence below indicates that New Zealanders generally have remained engaged in education and training despite the disruptions caused by COVID-19. However, certain groups continue to face barriers to accessing education and experience poorer outcomes.
Despite the interruptions to in-person learning caused by Alert Level changes, 64.0 percent of students regularly attended (attended more than 90 percent of the term) school/kura in the last seven weeks of term two in 2020 compared to 57.7 percent in the same period in 2019. However, COVID-19 increased barriers to attendance for some students, particularly those in low-decile schools, in earlier year levels, Māori and Pacific students, or students attending Māori-medium education.
In terms of enrolment, Ministry of Education records indicate a substantial fall in the number of students who had left school by the start of October 2020 compared to the same time in 2019. The number of secondary students leaving school by early October 2020 was 22,154 - a 19 percent decrease compared to early October 2019 (27,228). At the tertiary level, enrolment data from the Tertiary Education Commission shows the number of domestic students enrolled in formal study at tertiary providers increased, with approximately 1,155, or 0.4 percent, more domestic students in formal tertiary education in 2020 than in 2019.
There was also strong growth in apprenticeship numbers in 2020. The number of apprentices increased by 17.6 percent between December 2019 to December 2020, with particularly strong growth in apprentices aged 25 to 39 years-old, aged 40 years old and over, as well as women, Māori, and Pacific apprentices. In total, more than 100,000 New Zealanders have signed up for free vocational training and apprenticeships under the Targeted Training and Apprenticeships Fund (TTAF) since July 2020.
In the March 2021 HLFS, the proportion of young people not in employment, education, or training (NEET) rose to 13.1 percent, up from 12.4 percent on the previous quarter. However, the youth NEET rate in the March 2021 quarter was down from 14.1 percent at the same time last year.
In terms of attainment, New Zealand students scored higher than the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average in reading, maths, and science in the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2018. However, there have been steady declines in New Zealand students' mean performance in PISA over time, as well as a big gap between the highest- and lowest-performing students. Average scores for Māori and Pacific students in reading, maths, and science were lower than the New Zealand average in PISA 2018 and Māori students' average scores have significantly decreased over time in each subject.
- The declining trend is observed from the starting point of the series for each subject (2000 for reading, 2003 for maths, and 2006 for science). Average reading performance declined significantly from 2000-2018, although has remained somewhat stable since 2012. The average mathematics score in 2018 was similar to 2012 and 2015 but lower than 2003. Average science performance in 2018 had decreased since 2006 but was similar to performance in 2012 and 2015.