School students have spoken out agonisingly about racism in New Zealand schools in a nationwide consultation with about 1600 young people.
"Racism exists, we feel little and bad," one Māori student in an alternative education unit said in a report on the consultation published today by Children's Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft and the School Trustees Association.
A Samoan high school student said: "I sense stereotypes in my teacher's eyes and gestures, and how they act towards me makes me feel like leaving."
"What also puts me off are the teachers telling me to give up, saying I am not going to pass level 3, without even checking my credits," the student said.
The consultation with 144 young people face-to-face and 1534 in an online survey found that 67 per cent of young people thought school was "OK".
A quarter (26 per cent) said "I really like going to school", but 7 per cent said, "I'd rather be anywhere than at school."
The young people, mostly aged 10 to 17, were asked about what they wanted included in the first Statement of National Education and Learning Priorities, which must be drawn up by Education Minister Chris Hipkins under changes to the Education Act passed by the former National Government last year.
The report says the young people wanted six things: to be understood as individuals in their own worlds, to end racism in schools, to have good relationships with teachers, to be taught in the way they learned best, to feel comfortable in the learning environment, and to have a say in their learning.
More than half of the face-to-face interviews were with young Māori, who often said they felt "stereotyped" by their teachers.
"I'm good at maths but my teacher just thinks I'm stupid so never gave me any time except to get me in trouble. But if you're Pākehā, it's all good," one student in an alternative education unit said.
A high school student said: "Because we're Māoris, and the teacher might think we're dumb, they don't want to pay as much attention to us, and focus more on the white people."
A Tuvaluan/Samoan/Rarotongan student said: "Some teachers are racist. They tell you that you are not going to achieve ... this makes me feel angry because it hurts."
A Māori/Pacific/European student said: "Just because we are Māori doesn't mean we are stupid."
On the other hand, the report said teachers who respected their students' cultures were appreciated.
"Rangatahi shared how it feels good when their teacher welcomes them and calls them by their name (and pronounces it correctly)," the report said.
It said young people wanted their teachers to "get to know them and talk to them about things outside of school" - what it called "understanding me in my whole world".
A Tongan/New Zealander/Samoan/British student said: "Instead of teachers focusing on those they think can achieve and not the other, focus on those who don't want to as they need it the most as they are probably going through something."
Students wanted good relationships with teachers - "teachers who are helpful, they make the difference between me achieving and failing".
"Ninety per cent of the teachers don't care and seem to hate their students," one Pākehā student said.
"The ones who do are wonderful and I love them, but it isn't enough."
Seventy per cent of students rated their schools well, but a minority complained that they were not able to learn in the ways they learned best. A primary school student asked for "more iPads, more maths games, and less worksheets and basic facts".
"Time limits to finish the worksheets are too stressful and it puts too much pressure on kids, and then suddenly you are freaked out and then you forget how to do it," the student said.
The young people wanted a comfortable, safe environment without bullying.
"I would put more teachers on duty on very specific areas and not just one open area, so that bullying could stop," one primary school student said.
Finally, the students wanted a say in their own learning. As one Samoan student said: "Just talk to us, don't see us as too hard."