“Education is integral to the mission of the Church to proclaim the Good News. First and foremost every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth.” Pope Benedict XVI, Address to Catholic Educators at the Catholic University of America, 2008, n.2
The first Catholic School in New Zealand was opened in 1841, shortly after the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between Maori and the British Crown. It was the beginning of the development of a Catholic education system which now has 191 primary schools (ages 5-12 years), 49 secondary schools (ages 13-18 years), and a growing number of early childhood education services. Catholic primary and secondary schools educate 64,000 students.
Catholic primary and secondary schools are state integrated schools. The government funds the operational costs of the schools, while the Catholic proprietors (diocesan bishops and religious orders) own the land and buildings. Integrated schools are allowed to preserve their special character, which is of vital importance to Catholic schools.
The New Zealand Catholic Education Office is the office of the New Zealand Council of Proprietors of Catholic Integrated Schools. It also serves the educational requirements of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference. It assists the Conference and the proprietors of Catholic integrated schools in their mission of providing Catholic education.
Diocesan Education Offices or Schools Offices provide support for the early childhood centres, primary and secondary schools in their diocese.
The National Centre for Religious Studies (NCRS) is the agency of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference and part of The Catholic Institute of Aotearoa New Zealand. NCRS is responsible for producing religious education and catechetical programmes and resources for schools and parishes, and professional development programmes for Catholic teachers. NCRS also provides Faith Education programmes for adults.
The Catholic Church in New Zealand has three tertiary education institutions which provide tertiary qualifications in theology and pastoral ministry, including qualifications approved by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority:
Catholic education is committed to the ideal of furnishing minds...the paramount concern of the Catholic teacher is not just the transmission of facts, but the formation of persons: formation, not just information
Cardinal Thomas Williams, Emeritus Archbishop of Wellington
In February 2014 The New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference published the Catholic Education of School-Age Children document about our Catholic education system. In it the Bishops have set out their thoughts about the system, the principles which should underpin its operation, and their concerns and hopes for the young people who move through it. Copies have been distributed to every Catholic School and is available here.
The Bishops’ document draws on recent doctoral research into the Catholic identity of a sample of Pakeha New Zealand young adult Catholics. A copy of the relevant doctoral thesis is available here.