Temporarily allowing the provision of NCEA offshore – a COVID-19 response

State and state integrated schools are normally unable to provide education to students outside New Zealand (there is currently no restriction on the ability for private schools to provide education offshore).

The Education and Training Act 2020 also generally prohibits the provision of NCEA outside New Zealand with two exceptions under Section 455. More information about this prohibition can be found  and on the Ministry of Education website here.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has created considerable uncertainty about the continuation of New Zealand study pathways for international fee-paying students studying in New Zealand in 2020, as well as for the New Zealand schools that host and educate them. 

To provide more certainty for these students and schools, the Act temporarily allows the Minister of Education to approve state and state integrated schools to provide education to their eligible students while they are offshore (Schedule 1, Part 1, subpart 3, clause 11). 

The Act also includes a temporary third exception to the prohibition of NCEA offshore. This temporary exception allows NZQA to approve registered schools (state, state integrated and private) to provide NCEA to eligible students who are overseas due to pandemic-related border restrictions (Schedule 1, Part 1, subpart 3, clause 12).

NZQA also has the authority to specify the standards against which a school may or may not assess students based offshore. NZQA, schools and students will have to focus on those standards that are more suitable for quality teaching, learning and assessment by distance.

All registered schools (state, state-integrated and private) wishing to offer NCEA to their students during this time must have NZQA’s approval to do so. Information about the application process is below.

This temporary exception is only available to students already enrolled in a New Zealand school for 2020 on or before 3 July.

Eligible students include those enrolled students who are currently overseas due to border restrictions, and those who are present now and may wish to go back to their home countries but are unsure if they will be able to re-enter New Zealand.

This exception is time-limited and will expire at the end of 31 December 2022.

This is to allow affected students who are studying towards Level 1 in 2020 to continue their NCEA pathway through to Level 3. It is not intended to allow for any new provision of NCEA offshore.

Outside of this response to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the basic policy principles relating to the provision of education and NCEA to students based offshore have not changed.

NZQA Rules for temporarily providing NCEA offshore

Under the Education and Training Act 2020, NZQA has the authority under clause 12 of Schedule 1, and section 452(4) - (7) to establish rules for the delivery of NCEA offshore.

The rules outline the criteria used for the approval of applications which require:

  • the school to be a signatory to the Education (Pastoral Care of International Students) Code of Practice
  • standards the schools will use to assess students offshore - which must be suitable for the remote learning environment
  • details of each student being assessed as outlined in the application
  • the learning programme must reflect a coherent pathway and meet the needs of the students
  • the school to have NZQA Course Approval under section 524 of the Education and Training Act 2020, where the learning course or programme is established exclusively or mainly for international students
  • assessment processes that are fair, valid, consistent and appropriate with results being authentic and credible
  • that students receive adequate and appropriate information and support
  • for the assessment of external standards, that the school must follow the Overseas External Result process.

The application form and guidance document on the Ministry of Education website further details the rules and criteria the school must meet for approval.

The application process

All applications for the provision of education, including NCEA, to students outside New Zealand must be sent to the Ministry of Education. 

The application form and guidance document are available for download on the Ministry website and should be emailed to schoolsoffshore.learning@education.govt.nz

Schools can apply to both the Minister of Education and NZQA at the same time through a single form. Please read the guidance document and follow instructions on the form carefully, as some schools may not need to complete an answer for every question. 
The Ministry will forward applications to NZQA from all registered schools that wish to provide NCEA offshore. 

The Ministry will inform state and state integrated schools of the outcome of their application to provide education to their eligible students based offshore. This approval is required before NZQA can approve their provision of NCEA to these students. 

NZQA will inform registered schools, including private schools, of the outcome of their application to provide NCEA to their eligible students based offshore.

Schools will receive an invoice for a fee of $190 + GST per hour once their application to provide NCEA offshore has been processed.

Outside this temporary COVID-19 response, the provision of NCEA offshore is generally prohibited

Section 455 of the Education and Training Act 2020 prohibits the provision of NCEA offshore, with two exceptions:

  • to allow for the continued provision of NCEA to domestic students through distance school enrolment gateways
  • to allow for NCEA qualifications to continue to be provided in jurisdictions where the Government has enabled this through government-to-government agreements.

A third, COVID-19 related temporary exception (Schedule 1, Part 1, subpart 3, clause 12) allows NZQA to approve schools to provide NCEA to their students who were enrolled for 2020 on or before 3 July, but are unable to enter NZ due to border restrictions. Further information about this temporary exception is set out at the top of this page. 

Currently, Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu (Te Kura) is New Zealand’s only distance school, and only the Cook Islands and Niue have a government agreement that allows for the provision of NCEA outside of New Zealand.

Tertiary education institutions offering unit standards that may also lead to NCEA can continue to offer these standards, if they lead to qualifications other than NCEA.

Section 541 of the Act makes it an offence to breach the prohibition, with a maximum penalty of $10,000. This penalty is consistent with pre-existing penalties for similar offences. NZQA is responsible for enforcing compliance, with the offence and penalty provisions designed to complement NZQA’s existing monitoring and enforcement powers.

NCEA is designed to be delivered in New Zealand

NCEA was developed for students living and studying in New Zealand.  It is not intended to be an international qualification. The assessment of achievement standards requires teacher understanding of the New Zealand Curriculum and competence in delivering the learning outcomes. This cannot be guaranteed in an offshore setting.

The widespread provision of NCEA outside New Zealand would create significant risks to the international reputation and credibility of New Zealand’s national qualifications and wider education system.

However, the limited exceptions that allow NCEA to be provided outside New Zealand include measures to assure quality and mitigate these risks. 

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