Glossary: Educational Terms

New Zealand Words and Expressions

These are some common New Zealand expressions and words. A lot of Kiwi words have a Maori, agricultural or rural background. We have included primarily words that Americans or Brits might not understand or find confusing. The glossary includes educational terms and acronyms as well as words and expressions which may be used by New Zealand school children. We have compiled these lists from our visits, New Zealand publications, and various web pages. Please let us know if you know of words and expressions which should be added or definitions which could be improved.


Activity centre: Centre for secondary students experiencing problems with schooling and needing alternative options. Activity centres are attached to a local secondary school for administrative purposes.

Area school: Composite (all levels of primary and secondary) combined, usually in a rural community.

Beginning teachers: Teachers straight out of teacher training at teacher colleges/school of education. New Zealand teachers must teach in classroom for 2 years to be fully registered

Class A-D: Code for size of secondary schools where A is the smallest.

College: Secondary school.

Composite: Primary/secondary schools combined, as in form 1-7 (year 7-13) colleges, middle or area schools.

Contributing school: Primary or schools that cater for children in years 1-6, the children then continue their education at an intermediate, middle or a forms 1-7 (years 7-13) secondary school.

Deciles: Deciles divide schools into 10 groupings where decile 1 schools are in areas of greatest socio-economic disadvantage and decile 10 schools in areas of greatest socio-economic advantage

Form: Term for class levels, as in forms 1-7 ( years 7-8 of primary and 9-13 of secondary. (British). New Zealand schools in 1997 shifted to expressing class levels in years.

Full primary: School educating children up to year 8.

Grammar school: Secondary school

Headmaster/headmistress: School principal (British). The term principal is becoming more common. Headmaster is still used by many private schools or some of the more traditional state schools.

Head boy/girl: Student appointed to assist the school administration ???

High school: Secondary school

Immersion: Programmes for Maori education: specified at three levels, up to 100%, where all classroom education will be in the Maori language.

Independent school: Private school including primary, secondary or composite school, governed by independent board. A state registered school meeting specified standards and receiving some state funding, but charging tuition fees.

Integrated school: Formerly private primary, secondary or composite schools integrated into state-funded system. These schools may have special requirements for some teaching positions. All of the Catholic schools have integrated as well as many other formerly private schools.

Intermediate school: Middle or junior high-school schools with only years 7-8.

Juniors: The first three years of primary school.

Kura kaupapa Maori: State schools where the principal language is Maori

Leaving age: New Zealand has a legal requirement for children to be enrolled/attend school between ages of 6-16.

Middle school: Schools combining years 7-10 or late primary and early secondary years.

NZ Curriculum Framework: Foundation policy statement covering teaching, learning, and assessment for all students in NZ schools.

National Curriculum: Body of documents setting out curricula for years 1-13: required basis for subject teaching in all NZ schools.

National Certificate: New secondary, standards-based qualification.

National Education Guidelines: Contain a statement of goals for education in NZ, as well as curriculum and administrative requirements; are part of all school charters.

Prefect: Student monitor (British)

Primary school: Elementary school or school providing education for 5-12-years-olds; years 1-8

Principal: primary /secondary (also headmaster/mistress; rector); manages day-to-day activities of school within policies established by board of trustees.

Scale A: General primary basic pay scale for classroom teachers

School Certificate: national examination undertaken by students at form 5 (year 11) level.

Secondary school: Schools providing education for 13-18-year-olds; years 9-13. Unlike the United States there are many different names for secondary schools (colleges, grammar, high, etc.). Many originally described the type of school, but now are simply retained as traditional names with little real distinction.

Special character: religious or philosophical component to integrated schools' educational and philosophical outlook

Special school: Schools providing specialist education or support for children with special physical, emotional or intellectual needs

Standard: Standards 1-4 are years 3-6 of primary school.

State school: Public schools in the American sense. Fully state funded: co-educational at primary level; at secondary offering single sex or co-educational options.

Te Atawhai: Learning center (Maori) to help mainstream handicapped students.

Syndicate: A group of classes in primary school: may be one teacher's administrative responsibility or may work together on certain projects/school activities.

Tag: Specific requirements to support religious teaching in integrated schools, attaching to some, but not all, positions in the school.

Te reo Maori: Maori language, along with English, is one of NZ's two official languages.

Tikanga Maori: Study of Maori culture and way of life.

Unit: Salary units paid to area and secondary teachers for extra responsibilities

Unit standards: Nationally recognized requirements to be met in a particular learning area, resulting in credits leading to award of National Certificate .

Years: Years 0 to 13 class levels: Y0-8 (5-11 years of age) = primary schooling; Y9-13 (13-18 years of age = secondary schooling; these terms must be used for resourcing purposes with the Ministry of Education, but schools may designate classes by other terms currently in use such as the traditional system ( junior/standard/form).

Glossary: Words

These are words commonly used in New Zealand, but may not be familiar to American or British English speakers.

All Blacks: New Zealand national rugby team

Batch: Holiday cottage/home

Bush: Country

Bushlawyer: Someone who argues and won't give up. (Goes around and around.)

Choice / wicked: Great

Cow cocky: Dairy farmer

Footy: ??Rugby

Godzone: God's own country (it's so good)

Hardcase: Funny, silly but popular person

Lambs fry: Liver

Kapai: Maori for excellent or good

Fullas: Guys, people

G'day: Hello

Ganbatte: ?????

Good egg: Good person

Gumboots: Wellingtons, rubber boots (British)

Haka: War dance (Maori). Often performed at sports matches as a form of cheer leading

Hoihoi: Be quiet (Maori)

Jandals: Thongs, flip flops

Kia Ora: Hello (Maori)

Kiwi: Small flightless bird, used to described New Zealanders and New Zealand things

Knowledge City: Wellington (the capital)

Mufti: Non-uniform clothes (British)

Oz: Australia

Netball: Basket-ball like game for girls without dribbling (British)

Paddock: Field

Pakeha: European New Zealander

Powhiri: Welcome (Maori)

Pushchair: Pram

Rugby: The most popular sport in New Zealand

Smoko: Morning/afternoon tea break (especially outdoors)

Station wagon: Large car

Swandri: Woollen, long, heavy bush shirt

Togs: Bathing suits

Tramp: Hike

Glossary: Expressions

The following are expressions which may be used by New Zealand school children.

Blow that for a joke: That's not very funny

Bring a plate: Provide food

Catch ya then: See you latter

Down the track: Along the way

Full marks: Good grades

Get in behind: Order given to sheep dog

Go on au: Don't be stupid, grow up

Good on ya: Well done

Have a cuppa: Have a cup of tea (British)

How are you going (Howz it?): How are you doing?

Howzit: Hello, how are things going?

In the dog box: In the dog house

Rattle your dags: Hurry up

She'll be right: Everything will be fine

Ticky-tour: A trip around looking at things

There you go!: Just as I told you