How Kiwi kids fare

Bul­ly­ing among ed­u­ca­tion woes doom­ing one in five to low-paid work

The New Zealand Herald - - Front Page - Lane Ni­chols

The lat­est Pisa re­port ranks the ed­u­ca­tional achieve­ment of 15-year-olds across 36 de­vel­oped coun­tries.

Dis­rup­tive class­room be­hav­iour, “dis­grace­ful” bul­ly­ing rates and stub­born nonat­ten­dance are be­ing blamed for en­trenched achieve­ment prob­lems at our na­tion’s schools.

One in five Kiwi kids leaves col­lege not equipped for the work­force and those from our poor­est com­mu­ni­ties are worst off.

While New Zealand’s ed­u­ca­tional achieve­ment ranks highly against other de­vel­oped na­tions, our longterm per­for­mance is de­clin­ing. Many feel lonely and un­safe at school.

And an alarm­ing de­cline in at­ti­tudes to­wards read­ing means many no longer read for en­joy­ment.

These are among the find­ings of the lat­est Pro­gramme for In­ter­na­tional Stu­dent As­sess­ment (Pisa) re­port, which ranks the ed­u­ca­tional achieve­ment of 15-year-olds in 36 de­vel­oped coun­tries.

Chil­dren’s Com­mis­sioner Judge An­drew Be­croft says it is a “sober­ing mes­sage” and “clar­ion call for ac­tion” on our shame­ful bul­ly­ing sta­tis­tics.

Unite Union says the system is fail­ing our poor, leav­ing un­qual­i­fied school leavers des­tined for low-wage labour­ing and fast-food work, or life­long wel­fare de­pen­dency.

The re­port finds New Zealand con­tin­ues to out­per­form most OECD na­tions, rank­ing sev­enth in the world for sci­ence and eighth for read­ing, but 22nd for maths.

Our top-per­form­ing stu­dents are among the world’s best, com­pared with OECD aver­ages. How­ever our en­trenched “tail of dis­ad­van­tage” means many un­der-achieve, set­ting them up for a life­time of fail­ure.

“About one in five 15-year-olds are not at the level they need to be to func­tion ef­fec­tively in later life,” said Dr Craig Jones, Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion deputy sec­re­tary, ev­i­dence, data and knowl­edge. “The dif­fer­ence be­tween stu­dents at the top and the bot­tom is deeply en­trenched. We’ve barely nudged it in 20 years.”

Over­all re­sults had sta­bilised, but long-term achieve­ment per­for­mance was de­clin­ing. Jones said this likely re­flected more be­havioural prob­lems, bul­ly­ing and fall­ing at­ten­dance.

The most “trou­bling” de­vel­op­ment was de­clin­ing at­ti­tudes to­wards read­ing, with more than half of sur­veyed Kiwi kids say­ing they only read if they had to, and 43 per cent not read­ing for en­joy­ment. This re­flected kids spend­ing more time on de­vices and the in­ter­net, and less read­ing books.

Chil­dren’s sense of be­long­ing was also flagged in the re­port, with more stu­dents feel­ing lonely, awk­ward or “like an out­sider” at school — pos­si­bly linked to so­cial me­dia.

The three-yearly Pisa study is con­sid­ered the most ro­bust in­ter­na­tional com­par­i­son of read­ing, maths and sci­ence abil­i­ties. Jones said the find­ings would help shape ed­u­ca­tion pol­icy, for in­stance how to tackle per­sis­tent bul­ly­ing rates.

“Fif­teen per cent of 15-year-olds re­port be­ing fre­quently bul­lied — dou­ble the OECD av­er­age . . .”

The re­port also showed more than 80 per cent were pro­fi­cient in read­ing, so most were gain­ing lit­er­acy skills: “That’s great but . . . an in­creas­ing num­ber of learn­ers even in se­nior se­condary level are strug­gling with their read­ing and there is a par­tic­u­larly strong re­la­tion­ship be­tween so­cio-eco­nomic dis­ad­van­tage and achieve­ment in New Zealand.”

The min­istry was in­vest­ing in chil­dren’s lit­er­acy and strength­en­ing par­ents’ abil­ity to read at home.

Judge Be­croft said the bul­ly­ing sta­tis­tics were a dis­grace. A co­or­di­nated gov­ern­men­tal re­sponse was needed: “If ever there was a clar­ion call for ac­tion, this is it.”

He said the worrying pro­por­tion of stu­dents fail­ing at school was closely linked to child poverty.

“Although we do well in­ter­na­tion­ally, that hides the fact there’s a group for whom we need to do much bet­ter.”

Unite Union na­tional di­rec­tor Mike Treen said the ed­u­ca­tion system was fail­ing dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­ni­ties, set­ting them up for life­time poverty.

“They’ll be stuck in labour­ing work or fast-food jobs. Usu­ally they are min­i­mum wage.”

Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Chris Hip­kins said the re­port showed na­tional stan­dards had been a fail­ure.

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