Sense of Belonging at School

A student’s sense of belonging at school is often a major factor which influences their wellbeing.

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a worldwide study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD) in member and non-member nations intended to evaluate educational systems by measuring the scholastic performance of 15-year-old students on mathematics, science, and reading.

Gaining an understanding of the non-cognitive aspects, including students’ motivation, engagement and beliefs, for achieving success in school and in the future is an important goal of PISA.

The Australia in Focus Report was released in June and sought to explore an aspect of students’ more general attitudes towards school, specifically their sense of belonging at school. While focused on the results of Australian students, the findings may reflect issues as experienced in other countries.

In summary, this is what the report found:

  • Australian students, on average, reported having significantly poorer feelings of belonging at school compared to students across the OECD. Australian students’ sense of belonging has declined significantly between 2003 and 2015;
  • One in five Australian students feel like outsiders and left-out of things at school, and one in six feels lonely at school, significantly poorer than the OECD average;
  • A significantly higher proportion of Australian students compared with the OECD average agreed that they made friends easily at school and that other students liked them;
  • Male students reported a significantly greater sense of belonging at school than female students;
  • Non-Indigenous students reported a significantly greater sense of belonging than Indigenous students;
  • Students from metropolitan schools reported a significantly greater sense of belonging than students from provincial schools and remote schools, while there was no significant difference in students’ sense of belonging between students from provincial and remote schools;
  • Students from the highest socioeconomic quartile reported a significantly greater sense of belonging than students in the other three quartiles; and
  • Australian-born students reported a significantly lower sense of belonging than first-generation and foreign-born students, while there were no significant differences in students’ reported sense of belonging between first-generation and foreign-born students.

Click here to download the report to learn more details about all of these conclusions, and how they may relate to your school setting, no matter where you are located in the world.

If you’d like to learn more about the research and science behind the relationship between play and connection, click here.


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