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Qualification – highest, secondary school and post-school

Definition

'Highest qualification' is derived for people aged 15 years and over, and combines highest secondary school qualification and post-school qualification, to derive a single highest qualification.

'Highest secondary school qualification' is the highest secondary school qualification gained for people aged 15 years and over.

'Post-school qualification' is the highest qualification gained apart from secondary school qualifications for people aged 15 years and over. Included are qualifications awarded by training and educational institutions, as well as those gained from on-the-job training. Post-school qualification data is produced by level of attainment and by field of study.

'Level of attainment' is an indication of the amount and complexity of learning required to gain a particular qualification.

Relationship to questionnaires

Data on highest qualification is derived from questions 26, 27 and 28 on the individual form (PDF 395kb).

Data on highest secondary school qualification comes from question 26 on theindividual form (PDF 395kb).

Data on post-school qualification comes from questions 27 and 28 on the individual form (PDF 395kb).

Subject population

The subject population is the people, families, households or dwellings to whom the variable applies.

The subject population for these variables is the census usually resident population aged 15 years and over.

Non-response rate

The 2006 non-response rates for the qualification variables were:

  • highest qualification: 6.0 percent
  • highest secondary school qualification: 7.4 percent
  • post-school qualification (non-response to both level of attainment and field of study): 9.4 percent.

In 2001 the non-response rates were:

  • highest qualification: 6.5 percent
  • highest secondary school qualification: 7.4 percent
  • post-school qualification (non-response to both level of attainment and field of study): 14.8 percent.

Quality Management Strategy priority level

Highest qualification, highest secondary school qualification, post-school qualification level of attainment and post-school qualification field of study are defining variables.

The Census Quality Management Strategy assigns a priority level to all census variables.

Defining variables cover key subject populations that are important for policy development, evaluation or monitoring. These variables are given secondary priority in terms of quality, time and resources across all phases of the 2006 Census.

All data must meet minimum quality standards in order to make it suitable for use.

Comparability with 1996 and 2001 Census data

There are issues affecting the comparability of this data with 1996 and 2001 Census data:

General comparability issues for all variables

  • The classifications have been changed to include National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) qualifications.
  • For the 2006 Census, new qualifications classifications were adopted, based on the New Zealand Register of Quality Assured Qualifications. This register was introduced in 2003 as part of changes to New Zealand's qualifications system.

Further information on the qualifications' classifications and levels is available from the Statistical Standard for Qualifications, the New Zealand Register of Quality Assured Qualifications and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority.

Comparability issues for post-school qualification

For the 2006 Census, the post-school qualifications classification is based on the New Zealand Register of Quality Assured Qualifications. When making comparisons between 2006, 2001 and 1996 qualifications data, the following applies:

2006   2001 and 1996 
No Qualification  No Post-School Qualification 
Level 1 Certificate
Level 2 Certificate
Level 3 Certificate 

Basic Vocational Qualification 

Level 4 Certificate  Skilled Vocational Qualification 
Level 5 Diploma/Certificate  Intermediate Vocational Qualification 
Level 6 Graduate Certificate
Level 6 Diploma/Certificate 
Advanced Vocational Qualification 
Bachelor Degree
Level 7 Graduate Diploma/Certificate
Level 7 Diploma/Certificate 

Bachelor Degree 

Postgraduate Diploma/Certificate
Bachelor Honours
Masters Degree
Doctorate Degree 

Higher Degree

Changes to the post-school qualification variables in 2006 were:

  • Post-school qualification level of attainment and post-school qualification field of study were coded as two separate questions in 2006 whereas in 2001 post-school qualification was coded as one question. It is likely that this change in the coding process in 2006 has meant that some qualifications may have been given a different classification in 2006.
  • Certain qualifications were treated differently in 2006 – particularly historical teaching and nursing qualifications – to align with the newly introduced New Zealand Register of Quality Assured Qualifications. This has contributed to the decrease between 2001 and 2006 in level six qualifications and the increase for the same period in level seven (bachelor level) qualifications. Other qualification levels are likely to have been affected to a lesser extent.
  • The inclusion of the example of a trade certificate on the 2006 Census questionnaire seems to be the main driver behind the increase in level four and level five vocational qualifications between 2001 and 2006. Care should be taken not to interpret the large increase in these categories as being entirely due to a real-world increase in trade qualifications since 2001.
  • The changes outlined above reduce the time series comparability between 2001 and 2006 of post-school qualifications field of study at the most detailed level of classifications. This is in addition to the inherent difficulties in coding field of study at the most detailed level from a self-completed questionnaire, which can also affect time series comparability. Cross-tabulations with industry and occupation in particular will highlight time series inconsistencies between 2001 and 2006.
  • In 2006 highest qualification has been output in two ways:
    • It has been output with categories that do not distinguish between qualifications gained at school or post-school, and which are consistent with the new qualifications framework. On this basis, highest qualification prioritises the highest level of qualification gained, regardless of whether it was gained at school or post-school.
    • Highest qualification has also been output with categories that distinguish between qualifications gained at school and post-school. This allows comparison with output from previous censuses. On this basis, highest qualification prioritises any qualification received post-school over any qualification received at school, regardless of the level of qualification gained.

Comparability with non-census data

The highest qualification, highest secondary school qualification, and post-school qualification data can be compared with similar topics in the Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS).

People in non-private dwellings are not included in the HLFS sample. This may contribute to a lower number of overseas students being captured in the HLFS data compared with census data.

Significant issues

There are no significant issues that users need to be aware of.

Other things to be aware of

  • All census data was subject to considerable checks (including edits) during processing and evaluation, to ensure that it meets quality standards and is suitable for use. These checks were applied to data supplied both on paper and on Internet forms. In addition to these quality checks, the Internet form had built-in editing functionality that directed respondents to the appropriate questions and ensured that their responses were valid. As a result of this, data from Internet forms may be of higher overall quality than data from paper forms. The significance of this will depend on the particular type of analysis being done.
  • There were differences between how the forms were completed on the Internet and on paper for this variable:
    • The Internet form allowed only one response to be selected for the highest secondary school qualification and post-school qualification indicator questions. If a further response was selected, the response given previously disappeared. Multiple responses to these questions were possible when forms were completed on paper.
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