PISA 2015: New Zealand Students Wellbeing

Publication Details

Students’ educational outcomes can be affected by a range of factors from inside and outside of the school grounds. For example, students who are motivated to succeed have high expectations for the future, and those who have a strong sense of belonging at school tend to have better academic outcomes. It is therefore vitally important that parents, educators and system leaders understand and act on these aspects of student wellbeing.

In 2015, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) measured these and other aspects of wellbeing among 15-year-olds across 70 countries. This report summarises the main results as they relate to New Zealand students. Where relevant, this report also triangulates information from other studies to provide a fuller understanding of student wellbeing.

Author(s): Comparative Education Research Unit, Ministry of Education.

Date Published: April 2017

Executive Summary

Results of the PISA assessment support other evidence about New Zealand students' wellbeing. They confirm areas where New Zealand students felt positive about their school life and academic abilities. For example, New Zealand students were strongly motivated to achieve academically, and almost half expected to achieve a university degree. The vast majority of students reported their parents were interested in their schooling and supported their efforts. Similarly, most reported their teachers showed an interest in their learning and gave extra help when needed. The majority of New Zealand students felt liked by other students, made friends easily and felt they belonged at school. Students had high levels of access to information and communication technologies (ICT), which they felt supported their education. Unfortunately, as with other studies, the PISA assessment also finds high levels of bullying in New Zealand schools.

The PISA report confirmed that a sense of belonging is strongly correlated with students' relationships with their teachers and other students. Those 15-year-old students who had a weaker sense of belonging were more likely to report that they were treated unfairly by their teachers, or had experienced bullying at school.

The PISA report also confirmed that higher achievement is strongly correlated with a stronger sense of belonging, motivation to achieve, parental support and lower schoolwork-related anxiety. Schoolwork-related anxiety and worry about poor grades among New Zealand students was high, particularly for girls. A small minority of students were recorded as 'extreme users' of the internet, a result that is associated with lower achievement.

The PISA results help grow our understanding of students' experiences of bullying behaviours. The majority of New Zealand students reported they 'only occasionally or never' experienced any form of bullying at school. However, just over a quarter experienced at least one type of bullying a 'few times a month' or more. On the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) 'Exposure to Bullying' index, New Zealand had the second highest level of students' reports of bullying across countries taking part in PISA 2015.

A student's wellbeing is also related to their physical health and how they spend their time outside of school. Results in these areas showed that just over a third of New Zealand students had paid work. Around three quarters of students reported that they exercised regularly or played sport outside of school.

Overall the findings of the PISA assessment paint a picture of New Zealand students who were motivated, expected a lot of themselves, were well supported by the adults around them and felt safe in their schools. Most felt they belonged at school, were welcomed and liked among their peers. They were busy and well-rounded students with paid work, and helped around the home. They exercised and played sport on top of their schooling commitments. While most of these results appeared to be positive, a concerning minority of students responded that they were highly anxious about academic testing at school and that they experienced bullying behaviours at school.

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