The young people we spoke to value accessible and affordable education, but they worry they are not being equipped with the life skills and knowledge they need to be flourishing in the 21st century


When asked to choose from a list of 10 options (including ‘Other’) identifying “the single most important thing to you in the world right now”, the majority of respondents 25.4% (263 people) chose ‘Education/school’.

When asked, “What things are causing you to worry?” 49% percent of respondents (514 people) said, “Succeeding in studies and getting good grades.”

However, another common theme that came up in our interviews, the open-field survey questions and the workshops was that some young people (143 in our open-field survey) feel underserved by the education system, which they do not believe is preparing them for the 21st century.

Some young people felt under huge amounts of pressure with exams, homework, and deadlines.

“Having to think about what subjects you need to take throughout NCEA in order to set you up well for a career that you may potentially be in for your whole life is stressful. Being 15-16 is far too young to begin to decide what you want to do for the rest of your life.” - Lucas, 18, Trans Man, Thames

Others talked about how the education system adds unnecessary stress and does not teach young people the skills they need.

“NCEA in high school doesn't help students learn, it’s more like memorising to pass and I wish the education system taught us to learn about skills and information that would help us in life.” - Jenny, 17, Female, Mt Roskill

“The education system isn’t preparing us for the future as well as other countries. And I also think that something needs to be done to show the purpose of everything because sometimes at school it can all get a bit too much and stressful and it’s hard to see the bigger picture. It can make you feel lost and without a purpose, but it’s so important not to feel that way so that you feel like life is worth living.” - Anon, 17, Female, Christchurch

“I don’t even trust that our schools are preparing us for the future of work. I know it’s going to be a gig economy and I’ll probably work 10 different jobs in my lifetime. It’s different from when my parents were young.” - Workshop participant

Some people also mentioned a lack of student support services.

“I want to see better wages, more community support, better student services.” - Anon, 20, Female, Dunedin

The teacher we interviewed is concerned about the lack of sexuality, healthy relationships and consent education in schools.

“There are very endemic, very entrenched wellbeing issues around sexual health and consent and relationships which young people are very unaware of often. That has flow on impacts in terms of what they think of as normal as adults and how they treat others.

“I see it from sexual aggression, to just misunderstandings, to a complete absence of knowledge about certain areas.  Alternatively young boys for example are not learning decent social skills because as teenagers they communicate and socialise mostly through video games or sport for example. They aren’t actually learning these very useful soft social skills and interactions, like being vulnerable, communicating clearly, understanding your emotions and being able to process them and talk about it.” - Anon, Teacher, Male

This was supported by what we heard from young people too.

“Things I’m worried about: Mental health, bullying, suicide, cyber-safety. The fact young people are not educated enough on sexual safety in terms of consent and manipulation and in some cases one person will do something to another person and then go brag about it but other people encourage this and congratulate them so the victim feels that they were in the wrong. Often guys think its cool to have done sexual things to girls even if the girl didnt want it and then they tell all their mates about it. I saw it happen a lot at school; people encouraging things that shouldn't have happened.” - Anon, 19, Female, Lower Hutt