How the Ministry works in early learning

We fund, regulate and support early childhood education in New Zealand.

Our role in early learning

It is the role of the Ministry of Education to oversee and support early learning services, as they empower young children to become:

  • competent and confident learners and communicators, healthy in mind, body and spirit, secure in their sense of belonging and in the knowledge that they make a valued contribution to society.

Te Whāriki: Early Childhood Curriculum

Unlike schooling, it is not compulsory in New Zealand for children under six years old to receive early learning education and care. We do not administer the sector in the same way as schools. Instead, all early learning service providers operate independently, either as commercial businesses or one of various types of not-for-profit organisations. 


We work hard to make early learning accessible to all New Zealand families and whānau. We fund 20 hours of early learning a week free for all children aged three and over. 

How the Ministry funds early learning


Although services operate independently of the Ministry, they must meet certain standards of education, care, health, comfort and safety for the children attending. 

We license all services before they are eligible to receive funding, and monitor 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.

Each service is able to choose how it applies Te Whāriki, in a manner that is consistent with its values, language or approach to early learning. 

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.

Our current policy priorities

As the Government’s lead advisor in early learning, the Ministry is responsible for policy development in the sector. 

A new strategic plan is being developed for early learning that will set the high level direction and vision for the next ten years. The Strategic Plan for Early Learning will set out a systematic and stepped approach to developing and strengthening the early learning sector, to meet the needs of all children and their families and whānau.

Strategic Plan for Early Learning

A review into home-based early learning to ensure that it delivers quality education and care for children is also underway.

Review of home-based early learning(external link)

The Early Childhood Advisory Committee (ECAC)

ECAC is an important part of the Ministry’s relationship with the sector. The purpose of ECAC is to foster a relationship between Government and the early learning sector to achieve common goals.

Early Childhood Advisory Committee (ECAC)

The Early Learning Bulletin

He Pānui Kōhungahunga is a bulletin we share with the early learning sector to communicate important information, changes and events.

Early Learning Bulletin

Working with other organisations

The Ministry works with various education agencies as well as organisations dedicated to early learning to both support the sector and help develop strategic policies.

Other early learning sector organisations

Review of third-party material

The Ministry’s role is to ensure that all sector people have equitable access to information and requirements. However, the Ministry does not, as a matter of policy, review material produced by organisations (i.e. third party) for use by early learning providers. It is the responsibility of the organisation producing the material for use in the early learning sector to ensure that it reflects the required practice standards. 

Review of third-party material

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