Education in New Zealand is compulsory for 10 years for children between ages 6 and 16, although most children attend school from the age of five. The adult literacy rate is 99%. Public primary and secondary schools are administered by district education boards (or boards of governors) and school committees (the latter elected by householders), under the authority of the Department of Education. Kindergartens are run either by private persons or by voluntary organizations with partial state subsidies. Primary education is given at primary and intermediate schools (the latter giving the last two years of primary education), and post-primary education at secondary schools, technical high schools, or consolidated schools for pupils who live in rural areas. Evening classes are given by technical and secondary schools, and adult education classes are offered by the universities. Most state schools are coeducational, but some private schools are not. New Zealand has 2,300 state primary schools and 60 privately owned schools. At the secondary level, there are 315 state-run schools and 15 private schools. As of 1999, public expenditure on education was estimated at 7.2 % of GDP.
In 1997, 357,569 students attended 2,296 primary schools, with 19,523 teachers. Student-to-teacher ratio stood at 18 to 1. In the same year, secondary schools had 433,347 students and 28,548 teachers. The pupil-teacher ratio at the primary level was 15 to 1 in 1999. In the same year, 100% of primary-school-age children were enrolled in school, while an estimated 90% of those eligible attended secondary school. Attendance at vocational schools has grown tremendously in recent years, from a total enrollment of 3,071 in 1980 to 63,658 in 1994. For children in isolated areas, there is a public Correspondence School. In some regions there are special state primary and secondary schools for Maori children, but most Maori children attend public schools. Private primary and secondary schools are operated by individuals and religious bodies. Since 1975, under new legislation, many private schools have been voluntarily integrated into the public system.
There are six universities, all operating under the aegis of the University Grants Committee and the Universities Entrance Board: the University of Auckland, University of Waikato (at Hamilton), Massey University (at Palmerston North), Victoria University of Wellington, University of Canterbury (at Christchurch), and University of Otago (at Dunedin). All universities offer courses in the arts, social sciences, commerce, and science. An agricultural institution, Lincoln College, is associated with the University of Canterbury. Law is offered at Auckland, Waikato, Victoria, Canterbury, and Otago, and medicine at Auckland and Otago. The Central Institute of Technology, near Wellington, is the leading institution in a network of 24 polytechnic institutions. There are evening classes for adults interested in continuing their education at secondary schools, institutes and community centers. University tuition fees are low, and financial assistance is given to applicants who have passed special qualifying examinations. A total of 169,656 students were enrolled in tertiary institutions in 1997, with 10,833 teaching faculty.