Study on Impact of Poor Vision on Education

( A new Massey University study is underway to investigate the impact of poor vision on the education potential of low decile primary school students.

The research was initiated after a charity screening programme of 750 students from lower socio economic areas, which found one in three had an undiagnosed eye condition.

Since the beginning of the year, the Essilor Vision Foundation has provided optometrists and specialised equipment to six primary schools to screen the eye health of students in Years 5-7.

The programme has focussed on students aged nine and above as their eyes have matured to a point where eye conditions can be better identified.

Over 60 independent optometrists from around New Zealand have pledged their support for the charitable initiative as it expands throughout the regions.

Massey University Associate Professor Alison Kearney, who along with education lecturer Dr Julia Budd will lead the study, says the research will investigate how the provision of corrective lenses impacts the students’ learning, behaviour and friendships.

The comprehensive programme will survey students, teachers and parents/whānau as well as comparing the academic record of students before their eye conditions were identified with improvements once corrective lenses were provided by the charity.

Associate Professor Alison Kearney hopes the research will raise awareness of the significance of vision for learning, engagement and social development and the importance of identifying students with vision impairment early and providing the necessary corrective intervention.

“Vision is a key factor in how children learn and it can impact on their engagement, motivation and behaviour. Research from the US shows that up to 25% of all children have some form of vision problem that can negatively impact on their learning and performance at school and initial data from this project suggests that these figures may be similar in New Zealand.”

Professor Kearney says it is vital these children are not only identified, but also provided with the necessary corrective intervention to address these problems. She says the socio-economic status of the families of identified children should not be a barrier to children receiving the necessary intervention.

“However, given the costs associated with some corrective lenses, they are out of the reach of many families. Governments therefore have an obligation to ensure that all children requiring corrective intervention receive it.

“I believe that the costs associated with providing these children with corrective lenses would pale in comparison to the costs associated with learning and behaviour interventions that may be required further down the track,” says Professor Kearney.

Manurewa MP Louisa Wall who has helped expand the screening programme from the initial pilot of 120 students in Hawke’s Bay into South Auckland, Taupo, Invercargill and Christchurch says the programme is making a real difference to the lives of our most vulnerable children.

Wall says in NZ we have a universal Well Child/Tamariki Ora service that supports, protects and improves our children’s health, so they can all grow and develop to their full potential.

“This research project will help determine whether there needs to be a greater commitment from the government throughout our children’s lives, to not only identify vision challenges once children are at primary school, but to ensure those children who need specialist support from an optometrist can access this expertise and then the corrective lenses if they are needed,” says Wall.

“Only then are our children ready and able to learn which is the outcome we are seeking to ensure all children are motivated and passionate about going to school and learning,” she says.

Wall says the charity is seeking further funding to expand the screening programme into more regions throughout the country with a visit to each school and free prescription lenses costing the charity around $3,000 per school.

Donations can be made at

The study will run until the end of the year.

Media Release 24 June 2016.