New Zealand’s learners from ethnic communities achieve well at school but encounter widespread racism, new research finds

New research from the Education Review Office (ERO) looked at how school classrooms up and down the country are becoming more ethnically diverse and found that by 2043, a quarter of our learners will be from ethnic communities. In Auckland nearly half (43 percent) of learners will be Asian.

We found that many of our learners from ethnic communities succeed in education. Many learners from ethnic communities do really well at school. Learners from ethnic communities are more likely to achieve well at NCEA and go on to University.

However, the report also found that they encounter widespread racism at school.  One in five learners from ethnic communities told us they experienced racist bullying in the last month and over half have seen others being bullied because of their ethnicity.

It is really concerning that nearly a third of learners from ethnic communities said they don’t think their school takes racist bullying seriously. We must do better – every school needs to be able to prevent and tackle racism.

The study also found our learners from ethnic communities often feel that they do not belong or have to hide their ethnic identity at school, and a third feel lonely at school every week.

It is very worrying that over a quarter of secondary learners said that teachers’ recommendations for course selection were influenced by ethnicity.

As New Zealand’s schools become more diverse there is an exciting opportunity to look again at what we teach and how we teach.

We found that education is not currently always reflecting what whānau from ethnic communities want. As we become more diverse as a country this will need to change. For example, nearly two thirds of whānau think schools should support their mother tongue, but there are 11 ethnic languages which are not available as NCEA qualifications. This includes Hindi, which is New Zealand’s fourth most commonly spoken language.

ERO found that schools across New Zealand are already innovating to deliver education to more diverse classrooms and saw examples of great practice. But not all schools are adopting new approaches. Concerningly, more than half of teachers do not feel confident connecting with New Zealand’s ethnic communities.

Learners from ethnic communities should have a strong say in the education they receive so not only can they continue to achieve in education but also thrive at school.

As New Zealand becomes more ethnically diverse it is increasingly urgent for our future as a country that education delivers for all learners.

For this study we focus on ethnic diversity and associated language, cultural, and religious diversity. Ethnicity is defined as the ethnic groups that people identify with or feel they belong to. Ethnic communities included in this report are African, Asian, Latin American, and Middle Eastern.

The report can be read here.