Students say what makes a good life

Issue: Volume 98, Number 6

Posted: 8 April 2019
Reference #: 1H9swJ

More than 6,000 young Kiwis have identified in a recently released report what wellbeing means to them.

A new report from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner and Oranga Tamariki has identified that while most young people are experiencing wellbeing, some are facing significant challenges.

A third of young people who contributed to the What makes a good life? report indicated they faced challenges in some aspect of their lives, while one in 10 faced multiple challenges. These challenges included racism, discrimination, bullying, poverty, violence and drugs.

Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft says there are many ideas about what child wellbeing looks like.

“The difference with this work is that we have gone to the source and asked children and young people themselves what wellbeing means to them,” he says.

“They highlight aspects of our culture that make wellbeing impossible. If our young people are to enjoy a good life, we need to knock these barriers down.”

Respondents indicated a good life is one where they feel accepted, respected, safe and happy. They have the support of family and friends, have their basic needs met, enjoy good physical and mental health and have a good education.

Life skills important

Education is important to young New Zealanders, but school can cause stress. They called for more one-on-one support and more life skills to be taught at school.

Young people also shared their views about better supports for physical, mental and sexual health and better health education. Young people mentioned mental health specifically, commenting on stress, anxiety and depression. They called for more counsellors, especially in schools, and asked for better supports for those with a disability.

Students want an education which is inclusive, affordable and relevant. They know education can help to set them up for success in life and help them achieve their aspirations. 

Being listened to was repeatedly mentioned as one of the things that could help young people have a good life. It also helps young people to be involved in decisions which affect them.

Primary and intermediate-aged children were more likely to mention the importance of family, friends and other people who support them. They were also more likely to mention their safety, particularly in regards to bullying.

Secondary-school-aged students were more likely to mention the importance of fun, happiness, opportunities, goals and dreams, money and employment, and good mental health.

Young people with a disability, as well as those who indicated their gender was other than male or female, were more likely to say identity and belonging were important for a good life.

Those identifying as LGBTIQ+ were more likely than the overall group to mention safety as well as freedom, dreams and goals.

The report concluded that efforts to support young people need to focus on more than services. Adults need to accept young people for who they are, respect their critical relationships and also support the people they care about. Listening to their views regularly and valuing their lived experience is the best way to achieve this.

What makes a good school?

Young people spend a lot of time at school and generally believe education is important for future opportunities. Schools and communities can have a major impact on their wellbeing.

Young people want kind, helpful teachers who care about them. They say teachers who are the same ethnicity as them are more likely to connect and talk with them. Young people with disabilities want teachers to be more patient in order to help them learn.

Respondents want to learn content which is relevant to them and would like to do more preparation at school for the career they wish to pursue. Some want more te reo Māori classes in school. One young person said education should include going to the marae and learning from elders about how to be a leader.

Some young people talked about the culture of their school and said it needs to be okay to fail. They want schools to be more accepting and respectful.

A child with a disability said it was important to be able to go to a school they liked and that they were supported to stay in a mainstream school.

Young people from a refugee background talked about how important language was to them and their families. They see getting good at English as crucial to having a good life.

Young people talked about needing support to learn ‘life skills’. They saw this as an important part of helping them to become an adult and getting a job. They wanted to learn more about interpersonal skills, budgeting, making good choices, managing their anger and knowing how to access housing.

Although some young people had had negative education experiences, the vast majority were still enthusiastic about learning.

Read the full report "What makes a good life?(external link)"

Resources for schools

Wellbeing@school toolkit(external link)

These free online survey tools help schools to explore how the different layers of school life contribute to creating a safe and caring school environment.

Inclusive practices toolkit(external link)

These free online survey tools help schools to explore the extent to which they include all students in all aspects of school life.

What young people are saying…

“People who really believe in you is the most essential thing to having a good life. And people who support you no matter what.” – Young person, Wellington.

“I think having strong friendships/relationships with people who genuinely care about you contributes better to a good life.” – Young person, Taumarunui.

“Teach acceptance more... Just so that people can learn to accept other cultures, because I feel like what’s happened in the past is that people have been taught it’s okay to just think within your one culture, and that’s it for your whole life. But then the thing is the world is such a vast place.” – Young person, Wellington.

“Māori language week shouldn’t just be one week. It should be the kaupapa for everyday life. The community should see our Māori culture.” – Young person, Taupō.

“In mainstream schools we know there is a therapist but we are not encouraged to talk to them. Just remind us now and again that they are there to help us.” – Young person, Wellington.

“We need to be included in conversations with adults instead of being told we’re too young.” – Young person, LGBTIQ+ community.

“If you are not plugged into the community you think there is no-one else like you and that leaves you feeling like you are a bit of a freak.” – Young person, LGBTIQ+ community, Wellington.

“I feel like the best life for young people is to have the opportunity to do what you love and to follow the things that inspire you and interest you.” – Young disabled person, Wellington.

“If you were a young disabled person in a wheelchair and there wasn’t a ramp at the front of a building, [you would have to] go around the back entrance just to get in. As much as you have the accessibility it’s almost dehumanising to be forced to go through that back entrance.” – Young disabled person, Auckland.

“It is very different today now because you can be bullied in your own bedroom on the phone. That is a big thing we should be careful of. There is cyberbullying.” – Young person with a mental health diagnosis.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:22 am, 8 April 2019

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