New Zealand students strongly motivated to achieve 

New Zealand 15-year-olds are more motivated to achieve academically than many of their OECD peers, but report high levels of bullying behaviour when compared to other countries, according to the latest international study.

New Zealand 15-year-olds are more motivated to achieve academically than many of their OECD peers, but report high levels of bullying behaviour when compared to other countries, according to the latest international study.

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2015 Students’ Well-being Report also shows that the motivation to strive academically is translating into plans for the future, with high numbers of New Zealand girls in particular expecting to achieve a university degree (52 percent). 

Karl Le Quesne, Acting Secretary for Early Learning and Student Achievement, says this is a credit to the work schools have been doing.

“Students are more likely to achieve well if they have great learning environments. That’s why it is important for schools to work together and share what works best as part of Communities of Learning | Kāhui Ako.”

The report also shows that most students feel liked by their peers, make friends easily and feel like they belong at school.

“Parents too are doing a good job in supporting students in their educational efforts with 95 percent of New Zealand students confirming this,” says Mr Le Quesne.

The report, however does confirm the level of bullying behaviour is higher than other countries. The majority of students feel safe and secure at school, but roughly a fifth of New Zealand students report being frequently bullied.  

“These results are disappointing. It is not ok for children and young people to feel bullied at school. We were however aware of bullying behaviour in some schools, which is why we opted to have New Zealand students participate in the PISA wellbeing survey.

“In 2015 we also launched Bullying Prevention and Response: A Guide for Schools to give boards tools to help address bullying.The PISA survey gives us a benchmark that we can improve on, the three-yearly survey will be repeated again in 2018,” says Mr Le Quesne.

Lorraine Kerr, the President of the New Zealand School Trustees’ Association (NZSTA), says a number of school boards have used a range of bullying prevention strategies, tools and resources available to them to provide a positive, bullying-free school environment.

“There are a number of bullying prevention resources and school boards and Communities of Learning | Kāhui Ako need to decide which one best suits their circumstances and challenges. If any boards need help with preventing bullying in their schools, I urge them to get in touch with us,” Ms Kerr says.

The Education Review Office (ERO) reviews and reports on what schools have in place to ensure the emotional safety of students (including prevention of bullying and sexual harassment) and students’ physical safety. ERO has also developed a booklet: the School Trustees Booklet - Helping you ask the right questions, which focuses on student achievement and wellbeing, and the role the board plays in these two areas. 

“Students need to feel safe and secure to achieve no matter where they are in their communities,” Mr Le Quesne says.

Go to the PISA wellbeing report on Education Counts website

More from the PISA report and background information


  • The report found on average, New Zealand 15 year olds spend more time on the internet outside of school hours than their OECD peers, with an average 2 hours 43 minutes online during the week compared with OECD average of 2 hours and 26 minutes. That is 17 minutes a day more.
  • On the weekend, the average New Zealand 15 year old spends 3 hours and 16 minutes online compared with the OECD average of 3 hours and 4 minutes. That is 12 minutes a day more.
  • Netsafe provides advice to parents on setting boundaries, making sure kids have enough sleep, and using the internet safely: 
  • The Ministry of Health guidelines state those aged five to 18 should spend less than two hours a day on screens (outside of school hours).  The current guidelines can be found at 


Test Anxiety, and Support from Parents and Teachers

  • The report ranks New Zealand students 14th out of 56 countries for test anxiety. NZ students had only slightly higher levels of schoolwork related anxiety than the UK, but lower than students in Singapore and Chinese Taipei.
  • Nevertheless, around 90% of NZ students said their parents, families and whanau are interested and supportive of their school activities.
  • And our students felt their families and parents encouraged them to be confident.
  • The level of parent, family and whanau support in NZ was similar to the OECD average, and similar to their peers in Australia, Canada, the UK and the US.
  • The report found around 80% of our students said their teachers showed an interest in their learning and provide extra help when it is needed. This was higher than the OECD average.

Contextual information on test anxiety:

    • The survey was taken when our 15 year olds were preparing for NCEA level one testing, so it’s not surprising they were feeling more anxious at that time than many of their OECD peers.
    • NZ has qualification testing and assessments for this age group, while many other countries do not.
    • Schools have systems and resources in place to support students including the challenges associated with the NCEA, such as guidance counsellors, academic advisors.

Bullying Prevention

  • The most common forms of bullying identified by New Zealand students in the PISA report were: “other students made fun of me” (17%), “other students left me out of things on purpose” (13%), and “other students spread nasty rumours about me” (13%). Just 7% of New Zealand students reported physical bullying behaviours. 
  • Bullying Prevention and Response: A Guide for Schools steps school boards through the policies and procedures they need to have in place to keep kids safe while they’re at school.  It was developed by the Bullying Prevention Advisory Group (BPAG), comprising of organisations from across the education, health, justice and social sectors, as well as internet safety and human rights advocacy groups and published in 2015.
  • There will be a concerted focus on addressing bullying during the Bullying-Free New Zealand Week from 22 -26 May. A student activity pack with a range of bullying prevention-themed ideas is available for schools.
  • The Ministry of Education’s Positive Behaviour 4 Learning (PB4L) initiative offers a range of tools for schools to combat the underlying causes and behaviours that lead to bullying. More and more schools are taking up this initiative with 805 schools having participated in PB4L School Wide.
  • All tools, information and guides are housed on the Bullying Free website
  • New guidelines on cyberbullying were made available to all schools in 2015.  In addition, the Harmful Digital Communications Act, which came into force in 2015, enables approved agencies like NetSafe to provide education and advice about online safety and to deal with complaints about harmful digital communications (eg cyberbullying).
  • The Ministry continues to promote the Wellbeing@School (W@S) survey tools (developed by NZCER) to help school boards know what to target to reduce bullying. As at 31 December 2016, 1,126 schools were registered to use the W@S tools (approximately 40% of schools). NZCER advise that 190 schools accessed the tools in 2016, and they estimate that approximately 500 schools have accessed the tools since the programme’s inception.

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