The end of secondary school is looming and some major decisions need to be made about what happens now with your teenager. If the decision to continue their education is made then the real research and hard work begins.

There are so many things you’re not likely to know or realize about the options they have. This article will in no way give you all the answers but will give you an introduction to some of the base and important points.

What is Tertiary Education?

Tertiary education is any form of learning or training that happens following secondary school. In days gone by students would complete their secondary schooling and, for the most part, move straight into full time employment or an apprenticeship. Things have changed somewhat and it is almost necessary for students to continue their education in some form. But in what way always poses the toughest question.

The academic year for most tertiary institutions starts in February and finishes in November and is often divided into two semesters. Some tertiary providers now offer a `summer trimester’ or summer school which runs from December or January through to February.

Tertiary education providers meet the needs of learners of all ages, ethnicities, abilities and educational backgrounds. They offer courses at widely different levels, from transition programmes to postgraduate study and research.

There are many ways to gain tertiary education, these are

  • Distance learning
  • Full-time study and training
  • Part-time study and training
  • Summer school
  • Workplace study and training
  • e-Learning

Distance learning

Distance learning offers a wide range of full and part-time study and training to people all over the country who, for some reason can’t or don’t want to attend a provider in person. Some distance learning programmes have a residential component. This means the student is required to attend classes face to face on campus for a short stint each year – such as a two-week block course. Sending and receiving material by post is one of the main forms of communication. This works much the same way as correspondence school does for school students.

Full-time study and training

Full-time study and training means the majority of the students time is spent attending a tertiary provider. This is often the fastest way to finish a qualification.

Part-time study and training

Many qualifications and courses can be studied part-time. One advantage of part-time study and training is that it allows students to continue with other family, work or sporting commitments. The flip side of this coin is that the qualification usually takes a greater length of time to complete.

Summer school

Summer school courses are usually offered over the summer months for a variety of reasons. They can be:

  • To give the student the chance to prepare for further study
  • To gain pre-requisite qualifications
  • Prepare students for the demands for full-time study
  • To allow students to re-sit or retake exams or assessments they haven’t yet passed but need to.

Some students also take courses over the summer months to shorten the length of time taken to complete a qualification.

Workplace study and training

This type of training gives the student the chance to study or train while they work. You can be trained on the job or trained off-site by a registered training provider such as a polytechnic or private training establishment.


e-Learning is learning that is enabled or supported by the use of digital tools and content (computers, internet, CD-roms etc). It typically involves some form of interactivity, which may include online interaction between the learner and their teacher or fellow students.


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This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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