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Kiwi kids share their views on life in CensusAtSchool 2019

A large national survey that will give an intriguing glimpse into schoolchildren’s lives launches today. 

Thousands of primary, intermediate and secondary school students around the country will share their views on issues as wide-ranging as climate change, the amount of time they spend on digital devices, and how they handle interpersonal issues. Senior students will be asked to also share their own attitudes and perceived parental attitudes to activities such as drinking and smoking by young people. 

The students are taking part in CensusAtSchool New Zealand, known in te reo Māori as TataurangaKiTeKura Aotearoa, a non-profit, online educational project that aims to bring statistics to life in both English and Māori-medium classrooms. It is run by the Department of Statistics at the University of Auckland in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Stats NZ.

Supervised by teachers, students from years 5-13 anonymously answer questions in English or te reo Māori on digital devices. Some questions involve practical activities such as measuring the length of their right feet and weighing their laden schoolbags. Others will seek their views and experiences on a range of social and personal issues.  

Up to 30,000 schoolchildren are expected to participate in CensusAtSchool this year. By late last night, more than 1,509 teachers from 775 schools had already registered. The census runs until July 5. 

This is the ninth edition of CensusAtSchool, and co-directors Professor Chris Wild and Rachel Cunliffe say that it’s shaping up to be the biggest ever. Professor Wild, an expert in statistics education, says that the project is appealing because it produces data that is relevant and real to students, their friends and families.

“The students experience the whole statistical cycle – they fill in the survey, and then they use statistical methods to explore the data and tell the stories in it,” he says. “It helps students see the benefits of statistics in society – and they love finding out what other kids their own age are thinking and doing.”

Rachel Cunliffe, a former University of Auckland statistics lecturer who now runs a digital design company, says teachers are always looking for cross-curricular activities. CensusAtSchool is a rich resource with its reach across statistics and maths, health, social studies, geography, media studies, technology and science.

CensusAtSchool is part of an international effort to boost statistical capability among young people and is carried out in Australia, Canada, the United States, Japan and South Africa. The countries share some questions so comparisons can be made.