NCEA Level 2 achievement

A formal school qualification is a measure of the extent to which young adults have completed a standardised prerequisite for higher education and training and many entry-level jobs. The main qualification available to secondary school students in New Zealand is the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA). NCEA Level 2 is often a necessary requirement for entry-level employment opportunities. In 2016, New Zealanders with no qualifications had an unemployment rate approximately 50 percent higher than those whose highest qualification was a school qualification [11]. One of the Government’s priorities is to increase the proportion of 18 year-olds with NCEA Level 2 (or an equivalent qualification).

This indicator presents NCEA achievement, defined as the proportion of school leavers who achieved NCEA Level 2 or higher.

The figure shows that the proportion of school leavers in greater Christchurch achieving NCEA Level 2 or above has increased steadily over the period 2009–2017 (82.7% in 2017), despite substantial challenges caused by the earthquakes. The proportion remains higher than the pre-earthquake level (70% in 2009). National figures have also shown a steady increase over this time period.

The figure shows that the proportion of Christchurch City students achieving NCEA Level 2 or higher has been consistently rising over the last few years, and is generally higher than the proportion for New Zealand overall (82.4% and 80.7% respectively, in 2017). Selwyn District has had a notably high proportion of students achieving NCEA level 2 or higher, with this proportion increasing to 90.3 percent in 2017. The proportion in the Waimakariri District (80.5% in 2017) has generally been similar to the proportion for New Zealand overall.

This breakdown highlights the substantial disparity between the NCEA Level 2 achievement of Māori and Pacific students and other ethnicities. Between 2009 and 2017, school leaver NCEA Level 2 achievement for European/Pākehā students in greater Christchurch increased from 72.7 to 85.3 percent. By comparison, Māori and Pacific school leaver NCEA Level 2 achievement has improved from 45.2 and 49 percent, respectively, to 66 and 72 percent of students over the same time period. While there may be some convergence between Māori and Pacific students’, and European/Pākehā students’ outcomes, European/ Pākehā NCEA Level 2 achievement remains approximately 20 percentage points above that of Māori (85.3% vs 66% respectively, 2017). Asian students’ NCEA Level 2 achievement has generally been above that of European/Pākehā students. After trending down over the last few years (from 88.9% in 2014, to 84.3% in 2016) Asian students’ NCEA Level 2 achievement peaked in 2017, at 89.4 percent, the highest proportion within this time series. This overall pattern is generally consistent with the national picture.

The proportion of school leavers gaining NCEA Level 2 or above has consistently been higher for female students than for male students. In greater Christchurch, 86.4 percent of female school leavers gained Level 2 NCEA or above in 2017 compared to 79.2 percent of male school leavers. This difference is also evident for all of New Zealand (data not shown).

Data Sources

Source: Ministry of Education.
Survey/data set: Ministry of Education ENROL Database. Access publicly available data from the Education Counts website:
Source data frequency: Annually.

View technical notes and data tables for this indicator.

Updated: 05/08/2019