SYDNEY - A survey of schools in about 40 countries has found that bullying in Australian and New Zealand primary schools is in the worst category in the world.
More than a quarter of Australian year four students said they had suffered bullying, according to the Trends In International Mathematics And Science Study.
The survey shows Australian primary school students suffer bullying at a rate of almost 50 per cent above the international average, putting Australia in the worst category for bullying.
Of the 36 countries sampled in the survey of year four students, only Kuwait, Qatar, Taiwan and New Zealand fared worse than Australia.
Fairfax newspapers say the results have alarmed child-health experts and education bodies, which have been running strict anti-bullying programmes in schools over the past six years.
Almost 460 Australian schools took part in the study, which was produced by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement.
NSW Education Minister Verity Firth said she had strengthened principals' powers to deal with bullying, increasing suspension periods to 20 days.
"NSW schools are safe places and bullying and stealing are not tolerated," a spokesman for the minister said.
However, Federation of Parents and Citizens Associations of NSW president Dianne Giblin called for strengthening of anti-bullying policies, saying the figures are of huge concern.