Young New Zealanders want to be better understood, taught in the way they learn best and have concerns about racism at school.

These were some the findings revealed in a new report presenting key insights from over 1600 young New Zealanders about their experience of school and what is important to them about their education.

The paper, Education matters to me: Key insights will be followed with six follow-up reports in mid-February that will help guide the development of the Statement of National Education and Learning Priorities this year.

The report highlighted some areas of concern. It notes that “many children and young people told us they experience racism at school and are treated unequally because of their culture.”

“Racism exists – we feel little and bad,” was the response of one student.

Students also stressed the importance of feeling happy and comfortable before they can learn and the impact that their learning environment has on their wellbeing.

One student at a teen parent unit (TPU) noted, “At college a teacher would stand over my shoulder, that never happens at TPU, ever!”

Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft says children’s are “experts on their own experiences of education” and it is vital their opinions are at the centre of decision-making processes.

“Children and young people care deeply about their education and how it prepares them for their future lives. They have a great sense of hope for what education can offer them,” he says. “It is our job now to listen to them and act on what we hear. It is time for everyone, especially in education, to be more deliberate and purposeful in how we incorporate children’s views and opinions when making decisions that affect them.”

President of the New Zealand School Trustees Association Lorraine Kerr agrees.

“We can talk about the kind of experience we are trying to give our children and young people. But only they can talk about whether that is what they are actually getting.

“We have heard about their positive and negative experiences of the current system and how it can work better for them.”


Six key insights drawn from what children say about their education:

1.Understand me in my whole world

2.People at school are racist towards me

3.Relationships mean everything to me

4.Teach me the way I learn best

5.I need to be comfortable before I can learn

6.It’s my life – let me have a say


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