HomeProgrammesEducationNew Zealand Diploma in Early Childhood Education and Care (Level 5)

New Zealand Diploma in Early Childhood Education and Care (Level 5)

Level 5

Learn the skills to work in an early childcare centre with the UCOL New Zealand Diploma in Early Childhood Education and Care.

UCOL early childhood students at the workshop with paint and clay in their hands
Quick info

Level: 5

Locations:  UCOL Manawatū in Palmerston North, UCOL Whanganui, UCOL Wairarapa in Masterton

Duration: 1 year fill-time (41 weeks)
(See Course Hours & Duration for more details)

Palmerston North
26 Feb 2024 - 29 Nov 2024

26 Feb 2024 - 29 Nov 2024

26 Feb 2024 - 29 Nov 2024

Domestic Fees: *

Scholarship info

International Fees:*
$25,000.00 + Student Services Levy $591.00

Additional Fees
Compulsory course costs may apply.

* Fees are indicative only, and are inclusive of the student services levy and GST (goods and services tax). The fee shown is for one year of study.

The aim of this programme is to provide ākonga with the skills to become proficient early childhood support educators of infants, toddlers, and young children in a range of early childhood contexts. 

You will attend classes on-campus two days a week and undertake a minimum of 12 hours per week in a licensed early childhood education service, including a block placement within another early childhood setting. 

Ākonga will engage in early childhood education practices which reflect Te Tiriti o Waitangi/Treaty of Waitangi and the place of Māori as tangata whenua. Ākonga will develop knowledge of key early childhood teaching/learning and development theories, and the principles embodied in Te Whāriki to inform and guide practice in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The New Zealand Diploma in Early Childhood Education and Care Level 5 is structured to mirror the first year of Te Tohu Paetahi Akoranga Bachelor of Teaching (ECE) Level 7. Successful completion of the Diploma may provide transition opportunities into the second year of the degree through recognition of prior learning and an ability to satisfy the degree entry requirements.

 Course Hours & Duration

This programme runs for 41 weeks, including 7 holiday weeks.

Per week, your learning will include approximately:

Class Time
12 hrs

Lectures, tutorials and/or online recordings.
Industry Experience
12 hrs

Field base work experience in a ECE workplace.
Study Time
8 hrs

Study in your own time.

You can also choose to study part-time, or possibly by paper. Talk to us about your options with this programme.

 Career & Study Outcomes

Let UCOL help give your teaching career the best start. It's the personal approach from our sector experienced lecturers that sets us apart & gives our Bachelor of Teaching graduates an excellent professional reputation both here & overseas.

Graduates of the New Zealand Diploma in Early Childhood Education will emerge as competent kaimahi (teachers), equipped to confidently nurture and educate infants, toddlers, and young children. The qualification opens up a spectrum of employment opportunities, including:

1. Centre-based care (Unqualified)

2. Hospital-based care (play specialist assistant)

3. Home-based care

4. Nanny services

5. Parent-led care

6. Opportunities within culturally-based contexts

It's important to note that this qualification does not lead to teacher registration. However, graduates are encouraged to consider furthering their education by enrolling in the Te Tohu Paetahi Akoranga - Bachelor of Teaching, Early Childhood Education (ECE) Level 7 programme at UCOL to attain teacher registration and advance their career prospects in early childhood education.

The UCOL New Zealand Diploma in Early Childhood Education and Care (Level 5) offers ākonga (students) a comprehensive Level 5 qualification that not only imparts knowledge but also provides valuable hands-on experience within the early childhood education sector.

While this qualification doesn't lead to teacher registration, it serves as an excellent foundation for further academic pursuits. Graduates have the option to continue their educational journey by enrolling in the esteemed Te Tohu Paetahi Akoranga - Bachelor of Teaching, Early Childhood Education (ECE) Level 7 programme. This pathway allows graduates to expand their horizons and work towards achieving teacher registration in the field of early childhood education.

During your enrolment, you'll have the opportunity to engage in an enriching learning experience. This involves attending on-campus classes two days a week and dedicating a minimum of 12 hours each week to practical experience within licensed early childhood education services. These experiences include block placements across a diverse range of early childhood settings, where you'll have the privilege of working closely with infants, toddlers, and young children.

Our programme is meticulously designed with the aim of preparing you for a dynamic and fulfilling career as an early childhood kaiako (teacher). Our courses seamlessly bridge the gap between theory and practice, ensuring that what you learn in the classroom is directly applicable to real-world scenarios. Our curriculum is thoughtfully aligned with the specific needs of both the local community and the broader sector.

We take immense pride in our commitment to producing graduates who are not just academically prepared but are also work-ready, equipped with the essential skills and knowledge necessary for successful employment within the early childhood education sector.

 Course Information

Note: As a subsidiary of Te Pūkenga - New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology, UCOL Te Pūkenga is committed to providing the best learning outcome for you. As part of this, all programmes are currently being reviewed to make them portable, consistent, and closely aligned with the needs of the industry. When published, this course information is correct, but the courses offered may change over time. If you have any questions call an Enrolment Advisor on 0800 468 265.

All learners must attend one compulsory noho marae in your first semester. This noho is an overnight stay as per the following:

  • Wairarapa campus  - April 
  • Palmerston North campus - April
  • Whanganui campus - April

This programme comprises 120 credits. 

Child Development (15 Credits)
Learners will learn theoretical perspectives of child development (from birth to six years) relevant to the context of Aotearoa. After this course, you will be able to:
  • Describe key local and global theories of child development and learning approaches.
  • Explain the significance of understanding child development and learning theories in teaching mokopuna in early childhood settings.
  • Explain the connections between current neuroscience and child development and learning theories, perspectives and approaches.

Education and Society (15 Credits)
Ākonga will examine social and cultural contexts in education, including the Tiriti o Waitangi and the implications for early childhood education. After this course, you will be able to:
  • Describe how knowledge of the history of te Tiriti o Waitangi informs Treaty-based relationships in early childhood education in New Zealand.
  • Explain how the education system shapes the role of teachers in Aotearoa.
  • Analyse concepts of equity and equality in Early Childhood Education (ECE) settings in New Zealand.
Professional Inquiry in Practice 1: Professional and Reflective Practice (15 Credits)
Ākonga will gain the knowledge, practice, values and attitudes required to be effective professional teachers in early childhood education. After this course, you will be able to:
  • Document observations of children’s learning and development.
  • Describe your developing teaching practices to facilitate children’s learning and development.
  • Develop the use of te reo and tikanga Māori.
  • Apply reflective practice in an ECE context.
  • Demonstrate beginning/emerging skills and knowledge related to The Standards for the Teaching Profession.
Professional Inquiry in Practice 2: Communication and Relationships (15 Credits)
Ākonga will learn the collaborative communication skills required to be effective professional teachers in early childhood education. After this course, you will be able to:
  • Develop effective communication and collaborative relationships as part of the professional responsibilities of early childhood teachers.
  • Apply appropriate cultural protocols when communicating with Māori and Pasifika learners and their families.
  • Discuss the roles and responsibilities of a professional early childhood teacher.
  • Develop the correct pronunciation and use of te reo and Tikanga Māori in the Practical Experience Placement.
  • Demonstrate emerging skills and knowledge related to The Standards for the Teaching Profession.
Te Puna Reo (15 Credits)
Ākonga will learn te Reo Māori me ngā Tikanga and its relevance to their work in early childhood services. After this course, you will be able to:
  • Use correct pronunciation of te reo Māori words and sentences appropriate for teaching and learning experiences at an introductory level in an early childhood setting.
  • Recite karakia, mihi, pepeha and perform waiata ā ringa while participating in pōwhiri on the marae.
  • Retell significant local pūrākau of hapū and iwi of the area.
  • Reflect on participation in noho marae.
Play, Curriculum & Pedagogy (15 Credits)
Ākonga will learn the concept of play as a curriculum in Early Childhood Education in Aotearoa. After this course, you will be able to:
  • Explain how play contributes to young children’s learning and development within the context of New Zealand, from a range of national and international perspectives.
  • Analyse children’s learning and development based on observations using various techniques.
  • Explain the role of the teacher in supporting children’s play.
Artistic Languages of Children (15 Credits)
Ākonga will develop curriculum knowledge, skills and understandings of effective learning and teaching processes and strategies in the visual arts, music and movement. After completing this course, you will be able to:
  • Describe how the visual arts and music and movement experiences contribute to young children’s learning and development.
  • Explain the importance of artistic, cultural images and experiences and how these support children’s sense of cultural identity.
  • Plan and implement artistic and music and movement curriculum in response to diverse abilities, interests and needs.
Educational Approaches (15 Credits)
Ākonga will understand historical and contemporary educational ideas, philosophies and approaches informing early childhood education in Aotearoa. After this course, you will be able to:
  • Compare the ideas of a historical and contemporary educationalist who inform early childhood education.
  • Examine the range of early childhood approaches to education in New Zealand.

 Domestic Entry Requirements

NCEA Level 3


New Zealand/National Certificates in Early Childhood Education and Care (Level 3 or Level 4),


equivalent academic achievement,


on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of the Executive Dean.

Learners must authorise UCOL to obtain a background check from the New Zealand Police Licensing and Vetting Agency. If a conviction and/or a matter of concern is identified, the decision for accepting the applicant’s enrolment onto the programme is at the discretion of the Head of School.

UCOL will undertake a safety check of students to ensure UCOL meets the legislative requirements of the Vulnerable Children Act, 2014. UCOL Te Pūkenga will do this on behalf of early childhood education institutions and providers of private childcare placements hosting UCOL learners. The safety check involves confirming the student’s work history, verifying their suitability to work with children with a trusted referee, and the completion of New Zealand Police vetting.


For more information about NCEA Credits see the UCOL Te Pūkenga NCEA explained page.

 International Entry Requirements

In addition to the Domestic Entry Requirements, the following applies to international learner applicants.

English language proficiency
International learner applicants whose first language is not English must have an IELTS Academic score of 5.5 with no band score lower than 5 (or equivalent including TOEFL). IELTS scores used must be taken from a single IELTS Test Report Form (i.e. combining scores from more than one test is not permissible).

Under 20 years of age
In addition to this, international applicants under 20 years of age must have NCEA equivalency.

 Advice & Guidance

Safety Check 

UCOL holds a steadfast commitment to safeguarding the well-being and security of everyone within the early childhood sector. To uphold this commitment, we diligently carry out a thorough safety assessment once you have successfully completed your application for enrolment. This assessment includes the following vital steps:

  1. Interview: We will engage in a thoughtful and informative interview to better understand your background and qualifications.
  2. Confirmation of Work History: To ensure a comprehensive overview of your experience, we will verify your work history.
  3. Two Trusted Referees: We kindly request the contact information of two trusted referees who can provide valuable insights into your qualifications and character.
  4. Completing New Zealand Police Vetting: In line with our rigorous safety standards, we will facilitate New Zealand Police vetting to guarantee a secure and conducive learning environment for all.

The safety and well-being of both our students and the young tamariki during your practical experience in the early childhood community are of the utmost importance to us. This thorough safety check stands as an essential component of our unwavering dedication to delivering an educational experience that is not only secure but also nurturing and supportive.

Field Based Experience 

As part of your academic journey, you will embark on a field-based experience placement, overseen by a registered and fully certified teacher. This placement must be conducted within a fully licensed early childhood service, ensuring a robust learning environment.

You have the flexibility to engage in this experience, whether in an employed or non-employed capacity, dedicating a minimum of two days (equivalent to 12 hours) per week throughout the academic year, except when you are involved in your practical experience placement.

It's important to note that securing a suitable service to facilitate your field-based experience placement is a prerequisite. We kindly request that you finalise this arrangement prior to the commencement of the course, ensuring a seamless transition into this invaluable aspect of your education.

Practical Experience Placement 

In addition to your field-based experience, you will also have the opportunity to immerse yourself in a distinct early childhood service. This practical experience spans a duration of four weeks, with a commitment of 30 hours per week, involving full-time engagement across five days.

Please be aware that as part of this practical experience placement, you may be required to travel beyond your district. Any associated expenses incurred during this period will be the responsibility of the student.

Noho Marae

It is important to note that all ākonga enrolled in Level 5 are required to participate in a mandatory noho marae experience, which includes an overnight stay. This enriching cultural experience is an integral part of the curriculum and enhances your overall educational journey.

Entry Criteria

Academic Requirements for Admission

To be eligible for entry to the programme, applicants must be 17 years of age at the start of the programme, and provide evidence that they meet Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand's entry to the Programme requirements.

a) For those under 20 years of age:

I. Applicants under the age of 20 years must have University Entrance (UE)


II. Be able to demonstrate to the satisfaction of UCOL that they have the skills and ability to study at a tertiary level. This may include successful completion of New Zealand Certificate in Early Childhood Education and Care L3 or L4. Students will need to demonstrate an ability to study at the tertiary level.

b) For those over 20 years of age, there are no academic requirements for admission. However, applicants over 20 and without UE will need to be able to demonstrate to the satisfaction of UCOL that they have the ability to study at a tertiary level.

All applicants must meet the general admission criteria as approved by the Academic Board. In addition, all applicants are required to:

  • Declare any previous criminal convictions (including international convictions) prior to admission being confirmed. Convictions of any offence may not necessarily exclude applicants from enrolment; the decision is at the discretion of the Executive Dean; and · Authorise UCOL Te Pūkenga to obtain a background check from the New Zealand Police Licensing and Vetting Agency. If a conviction and/or a matter of concern is identified, the decision for accepting the applicant's enrolment onto the programme is at the discretion of the Executive Dean; and
  • Complete a Health Declaration Form · Provide certified copies of all relevant documentation.
  • Completion of Children's Act and Safety Checking Documentation.
  • Participation in a Group and Individual Interview. *
  • Participation Numeracy, Literacy, and Written Assessments. *
  • Completion of the Te Kākano cultural competency assessment.

*Please note that these requirements are purely to support kaimahi to best support your study, the results will not prevent your entry into the Diploma. Should you be successful in passing the Numeracy and Literacy test, this will be held on file should you wish to proceed to the degree upon completion of the diploma.

*It's important to understand that these requirements are solely in place to assist kaimahi in providing you with the best support for your studies. Successfully passing the Numeracy and Literacy test will not impact your entry into the Diploma program. However, if you do pass the test, your results will be documented and kept on file in case you decide to pursue the degree program upon the completion of the diploma.

Our selection process is a pivotal part of ensuring that our program aligns with your goals and aspirations. During this process, a comprehensive interview will be conducted, allowing us to evaluate various aspects, including:

  • Personal qualities
  • Professional qualities
  • Early childhood knowledge and experience
  • Additional work and community involvement
  • Cultural knowledge and understanding

Rest assured, the interview panel will comprise dedicated UCOL Te Pūkenga early childhood kaimahi (lecturers) who possess extensive experience and expertise in this field. The interview itself is conducted in a fair and professional manner, with utmost attention to ensuring your comfort and ease throughout the process. We encourage you to invite family or whānau to provide support during this important step in your academic journey.

In the event that the number of qualified applicants surpasses the available program slots, a waitlist will be created based on the date of completed and received applications.

Recognition of prior learning

Applications for Recognition of Prior Learning, including Cross Credit, Credit Transfer and Assessment of Prior Learning may be made on the Recognition of Prior Learning Form where a learner believes all learning outcomes for a course have already been met. Applications will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the UCOL Te Pūkenga Academic Statute and other relevant policies and procedures.

Application checklist 

To streamline and simplify the application process, we recommend that you prepare the following items before you apply: · National Student Number (NSN) (If you don't have a NSN, you may request one from NZQA, or you can supply a verified copy of your birth certificate, passport or Whakapapa statement.)

· Evidence of your highest level of academic achievement (and evidence of prior learning, if applicable)

· Evidence that you meet the entry requirements of the programme · Check if you're eligible for additional support or a scholarship. If you're 19 years or younger, you may be eligible to enrol in one of our free Youth Transition programmes. Note that you will need to provide any verified documents in person, via post or email (not via the online application form).

 Additional Costs

Please note that there are additional costs associated with the UCOL New Zealand Diploma in Early Childhood Education and Care as follows: 

Textbook :

Upon your acceptance into the programme, you will receive a comprehensive list of required textbooks. Further information will also be included in your acceptance letter. If you wish to access this list in advance, you can do so once you are officially enrolled. '

These required texts are essential reading materials for one or more of your courses, and most of them remain relevant should you choose to pursue the Te Tohu Paetahi Akoranga Bachelor of Teaching (ECE) programme at UCOL.

We recommend purchasing these required texts online, as they are available from a variety of suppliers, and prices may vary. Some texts may also be available as second-hand copies or in electronic format. When making your purchase, ensure that you acquire the most up-to-date edition.

It's worth noting that the UCOL library houses at least one copy of all the required texts. These copies are accessible for short-term loan, providing a valuable resource for your studies.

Please feel free to reach out if you require any additional information or assistance regarding textbook acquisition.


The programme is approved by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority under the provisions of the Education and Training Act 2020, and Universal College of Learning Limited, a subsidiary of Te Pūkenga is accredited to teach it.