More 18-year-olds are leaving school with NCEA Level 2 - a "stand-out" achievement in Government education targets, the Education and Tertiary ministers say.

Data released today shows "promising results" in all three key Government education targets, a joint statement from Education Minister Hekia Parata and Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce said.

Today's Better Public Service update "shows the Government is on track in lifting participation and achievement" from primary through to the tertiary sector, the pair said.

The Government's three key targets are:
• In 2016, 98 per cent of children will have attended early childhood education before they start school.
• In 2017, 85 per cent of 18-year-olds will have achieved NCEA Level 2 or equivalent.
• In 2018, 60 per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds will have a tertiary qualification at Level 4 or above.


Today's report shows each of the targets are trending upwards.

"We are focused on increasing success across all parts of our education system," Joyce said.

"We know how critical skills and qualifications are for New Zealanders to do well, so they can go on to contribute to a thriving economy."

The update showed 83.3 per cent of 18-year-olds achieved NCEA Level 2 in 2015, compared to 77.2 per cent in 2012.

Maori and Pasifika achievement improved at a faster rate, the update said, with NCEA Level 2 achievement increasing by 14 percentage points among Maori students, and 12 percentage points for Pasifika pupils.

"While we are seeing promising results in all three of our targets, the increase in the proportion of 18-year-olds with NCEA Level 2 is a stand out," Joyce said.

Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce speaking at an event in Napier in July. Photo / Warren Buckland
Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce speaking at an event in Napier in July. Photo / Warren Buckland

"A Level 2 qualification gives people opportunities to further their education and employment. It's often a minimum requirement to apply for jobs."

Parata said the 83.3 per cent figure represented a total of 51,299 young people, and was an "outstanding lift of nine percentage points since the target was introduced in 2011".


"The beauty of NCEA is that it allows every young person to choose a course of study that works for them and these results mean that more young people are getting the skills they need to be successful in their chosen career path," she said.

Work on Vocational Pathways, Trades Academies and Youth Guarantee Partnerships was successfully increasing the retention of young people at risk of disengaging from education, and raising their achievement, the ministers said.

The proportion of 25 to 34-year-olds who hold higher-level tertiary qualifications was up to 56.5 per cent, exceeding 55 per cent for the first time, Joyce said.

Meanwhile, the early childhood education participation rate had hit a record high, Parata said.

In the year to March 2016, 96.6 per cent of children starting school had participated in ECE.

"That's an increase of 1.9 percentage points from 2011 or in actual terms almost 4000 more children," she said.

"This is great news because it means more of our youngest Kiwis are getting the best possible start to their education.

"Getting the final 1.4 per cent presents a big challenge. These are the hardest to reach kids who are least likely to participate in ECE, but the ones who are likely to benefit from it the most, so we will continue working with agencies and families to reach them."