Teachers at New Zealand schools have low expectations about Maori student performance, which has led to decades of under-achievement, an Auckland researcher says.
Child advocate Anton Blank has published a study Unconscious Bias in Education, which compares the experience of Maori and African American children in the classroom.
Teachers in both countries had low expectations of those groups of children, who lagged behind other ethnicities at school, he said.
"Maori children face significant barriers to achievement, which stem from negative stereotypes attached to Maori as a social group," says Mr Blank.
"Personal and interpersonal racism, and institutional racism, work together to perpetuate Maori disadvantage in almost all spheres."
Teachers did not set out to discriminate, but simply found it more easy to relate to children who were from the same ethnic group.
Recent research showed Kiwi teachers had the highest expectations of Asian students, followed by Pakeha, Pacific Islanders and then Maori, he said.
Solutions to unconscious bias had been trialled in other countries, such as empathy programmes for white Americans.
Recognising how the bias affected teacher-student relationships was the key to lifting Maori student achievement, he said.