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Bullying, Violence A+, Science, Maths D

New Zealand students make good bullys but are not so proficient at maths and science, say two education studies released over the weekend.

Both use international studies as their benchmarks, comparing New Zealand students with the rest of the world.

The Education Review Office study, In Time for the Future, finds New Zealand students scored significantly lower in maths and science subjects than four of the world’s top countries - Korea, Singapore, the Netherlands and Ireland. Compared to an international index of 41 countries New Zealand students came out slightly above average.

Meanwhile, a review from the Education Ministry says a “macho culture”at schools is causing widespread bullying and violence in the nation’s schools, with homophobia higher here than in Australia.

Teachers’ skill levels were blamed for New Zealand students low showing in maths and science, with the report noting that relatively few highly skilled maths and science graduates made their way into teaching.

This lack of interest was caused by New Zealander’s ambivalence towards the teaching profession, with teaching seen to be a low status job.

Teachers’ understanding of how children learned, and the time allocated to teaching these subjects were also considered to be important factors in improving maths and science grades.

The nation’s obsession with sport is partly held responsible for the Education Ministry’s report on “staunch” male culture in schools, with many schools valuing masculine over intellectual achievements.

The macho attitudes also meant pupils often overlooked academic subjects like English, arts or music as being too “wussy”. The homophobia caused depression, failure and even suicide among gay students, the review said.

Review Co-author Adrienne Alton-Lee said schools should put into place anti-discrimination policies to ensure a safe environment for all students.

A full copy of the ERO report can be taken from the ERO website http://www.ero.govt.nz/ this week.

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