We have asked children and young people about their experiences of education. They have told us about their positive and negative experiences of the current system and ways in which it can work better for them.
Our education system needs to cater for all of the children and young people of Aotearoa New Zealand. From what we heard, it currently is not. Children and young people are experts of their own experiences in education. They have the right to have a say, and have their views heard in decisions that affect them. Children and young people have a great sense of hope for what education can offer them. It is our job now to listen to them and act on what we hear. Children and young people across a diverse range of engagement groups spoke about three key factors, which they require to have a successful experience in education. These were: a great teacher; a supportive and involved family, and friends.
Having a great teacher was the most important thing highlighted by children and young people.
Through talking to children and young people from ECE and Kohanga, to students in primary and secondary, and then Teen Parent Units and alternative education – we found that we seem to be getting it the most right for our under fives, and then those who are in teen parent units. We heard what makes those environments positive for children and young people; teachers know them, they connect with their peers, they have smaller classes, and more freedom to direct their learning.
Six key insights:
From our analysis of what children and young people told us, we identified six key insights about how they experience school, and what could be improved in the education system:
1. Understand me in my whole world
Children and young people talked about how they want to be seen for who they are, and to be understood within the context of their home, life and experiences.
“I am a library, quiet but filled with knowledge - it’s dumb
[that I’m not asked].” (Student in alternative education unit)
2. People at school are racist towards me
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.” (Student in alternative education unit)
3. Relationships mean everything to me
Children and young people talked about the range of significant relationships that either enable them to achieve or prevent them from achieving. Many told us that they cannot begin learning unless they have a trusted relationship with their teacher.
“Good teachers, teachers who are helpful, they make the difference between me achieving and failing.” (Student in alternative education)
4. Teach me the way I learn best
Children and young people want their teacher to teach them according to their strengths and unique abilities. Learning content was also important, some want to be learning things that they see as relevant to their lives, and their futures.
“When people recognise me and my skills I feel I can do better and achieve more.”(Student in secondary school)
5. I need to be comfortable before I can learn
Children and young people from all different learning environments stressed the importance of feeling happy and comfortable before they can learn and the impact that their learning environment has on their wellbeing.
”At college a teacher would stand over my shoulder, that never happens at TPU, ever!” (Student in teen parent unit, Pākehā)
6. It’s my life - let me have a say
Children and young people experience a lack of choice or participation in decision making about their own lives and schooling. They really want to have a say in their education, and they want teachers to involve them in their learning.
“Teachers being more understanding and actually listening to students’ reasonings for their decisions.” (Secondary school student)