The role of the Ministry of Education in early learning

Unlike schooling, it is not compulsory in New Zealand for children to receive early learning education and care. As a result, the Ministry does not administer the sector in the same way it does schools. 

This means all early learning service providers operate independently of the Ministry, either as commercial businesses or one of various types of not-for-profit organisations. 

There are different types of early learning services operating in New Zealand. Their differences range from the environment in which children learn, to the languages and philosophies that guide that learning. 


The Ministry does, however, work to make early learning accessible to all New Zealand families and whānau. Its primary mechanism for achieving this is through subsidising the sector, to the point of making 20 hours of early learning a week free for all children aged three and over. 

How the Ministry funds early learning 


While services operate independently of the Ministry, the Government requires they meet certain standards that ensure the education, care, health, comfort and safety of the children attending. 

It is the role of the Ministry to regulate the sector and ensure it meets these standards. It does this through licensing all services before they are eligible to receive funding, and monitoring them to ensure those standards are maintained. 

How the Ministry licenses and regulates early learning

Te Whāriki

There is an overarching national curricular framework prescribed by the Minister of Education that all services are required to implement.

However, each service is able to choose how it applies Te Whāriki and in a manner that is consistent with the values, language or approach to early learning particular to that service type. 

Te Whāriki: Early Childhood Curriculum


The Ministry supports services to help them navigate the many different regulatory, curricular and funding requirements they must meet. The Ministry is there to guide them all the way from setting up and becoming licensed, to supporting them to provide quality education and care to all young children in New Zealand.

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