Foundation-level education will be free for everyone aged under 25 from next year.
The move comes alongside other changes to youth education including scrapping a poorly performing foundation programme for beneficiaries, and expanding the Government's existing youth training scheme.
Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce today announced all foundation eduction would be fees-free for under-25s from next year.
The move is aimed at those youths who do not gain a level 1 or 2 qualification, such as NCEA, at high school.
Mr Joyce said anyone under 25 would now be able to obtain a level 2 qualification fees-free, whether that was at a secondary school, in a youth guarantee programme, or at a tertiary provider such as a private training establishment.
In another change, the youth guarantee training scheme - which is aimed at youths who might otherwise drop out of high school - will be expanded to include 18- and 19-year-olds.
The programme provides fees-free level 1 and 2 qualifications at tertiary, trades and services academies. It is currently offered to 16- and 17-year-olds, as well as 15-year-olds with early school leaving exemptions and 18-year-old teenage parents on benefits.
Mr Joyce said the youth guarantee scheme had been very successful in encouraging 16- to 17-year-olds to stay in education, but older teenagers who had already dropped out of school needed to have a chance at getting a level 2 qualification.
"Today's announcements are a significant step in making sure all New Zealanders have the skills to succeed in modern life, and to transition into further education or work," he said.
Meanwhile, the foundation-focussed training opportunities scheme, which offers 26-week foundation level training courses to beneficiaries, will be scrapped from next year.
It will be replaced by 2000 to 4000 extra short-duration training places for beneficiaries; 1420 extra English language course places; and 1350 more intensive literacy and numeracy courses.
Mr Joyce said the performance targets for the old programme had not been met, with only 28 per cent of participants entering the workforce after undertaking the programme in the last year, compared with the target of 38 per cent.