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Students become data detectives in this year’s CensusAtSchool

Students will be able to see how their pocket money stacks up against their peers and whether they’re getting less after-school screen time when they become data detectives in this year’s CensusAtSchool TataurangaKiTeKura.

The online statistics project, which starts today, is open to all English and Māori-medium schools. Teachers can register their classes and take part in CensusAtSchool at any time before it finishes on 7 July.

In class, students aged 9 to 18 (Year 5 to Year 13) use digital devices to answer 35 questions in English or te reo Māori about their lives and opinions.

The census explores present-day childhood; for example, asking students about whether they get pocket money, and how much; whether their screen time after school is limited; and if anything in their lunchbox that day was grown at home. Students also carry out practical activities such as weighing the laptops and tablets they take to school.

Ministry of Education deputy secretary Karl Le Quesne says more than 830 teachers from over 530 schools have already registered to take part in CensusAtSchool in their maths and statistics classes. From mid-June, the data will be released for teachers to use in the classroom.

“CensusAtSchool gives teachers relevant, real-life data to help students tell stories about themselves and their peers,” Mr Le Quesne says. “Students become data detectives, mining the census to reveal the stories hidden in the data. The CensusAtSchool questions are wide-ranging, and in analysing the answers, teachers have opportunities to start conversations that touch on many areas of the curriculum, including technology, sport, and environmental studies.”

CensusAtSchool started in 2003. Every two years, the University of Auckland’s Department of Statistics runs this census, with support from Statistics NZ and the Ministry of Education.

Statistics NZ’s education manager Andrew Tideswell says that in our data-driven world, statistical literacy is as important as knowing how to read and write. “People with statistical skills are very attractive to employers, but statistical literacy isn’t just about careers. If you’re confident with data, you have a valuable toolkit to negotiate everyday life.”

CensusAtSchool is part of an international effort to boost statistical capability among young people. Teachers and students in Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Japan, and South Africa take part. The countries share some questions, which allows students to make international comparisons.