How the Ministry works in early learning

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

Our role in early learning

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. 


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. 

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. 


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.

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

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.

The Early Learning Bulletin

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

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.

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