The standard of education at first sight appears to be slightly lower than that in England and there does not seem to be the emphasis on grammar and spelling. It is not unusual to see spelling mistakes and people do not pay quite the same attention to detail.
The education system does, however, encourage children to take an active interest in the community in which they live and there are those who give freely of their time and talents to encourage this.
Sponsorship from banks and large organisations, make high tech equipment available at most schools.
The encouragement to do sport, the emphasis on practical as well as academic achievement and the ethos of encouraging children to both question and seek their own answers, seems to produce many confident young men and women. There are however, as in all societies, many who slip through the net and come out with very little formal education.
Like anywhere in the world, I believe there are good and bad schools in New Zealand and the same amount of care should be exercised when choosing a suitable school, taking into account its location, child/teacher ratio and most importantly the ethos of the school.
Most schools have a uniform, mainly comprising of grey shorts for the boys in the summer, even up to the age of 17, when you will see young men with huge hairy legs turning out of school, jumping into their cars and driving away! They do however wear long trousers in the winter.
Girls’ uniforms often consist of a kilt, with contrasting jumper and for many schools, brown shoes are the order of the day.
Corporal punishment has been abolished. Detentions and ‘work squads’ are used to keep ‘law and order’.
There are no school dinner facilities for children, lunch is brought from home and normally eaten outside on benches. Hot pies are very popular and are the staple diet of many teenagers and are often on sale at the ‘tuck shop’ at lunch times.
In 1991 the schools ceased to be ‘zoned’ and you no longer need to live in the catchment area to be able to attend a particular school. Many accuse the new system of being elitist and there have been reports of children being unable to get a place at the neighbourhood school due to overcrowding. Parents, particularly those serving on school committees can be a good source of information on the current criteria.
The school year starts at the beginning of February, and there are four terms to the year. The end of the school year seems to come round very quickly in mid-December, when Summer Holidays and Christmas all come at the same time.