Australian boys and girls are equally likely to value school, bucking an international trend of male students holding more negative views, a major study shows.
But the gap between attitudes of socially disadvantaged and advantaged high school students is more severe in Australia.
Nearly 17,000 Australian 15-year-old students took part in the study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Program for International Student Assessment.
''The latter gap is more pronounced than in many other countries so Australia really needs to think hard how to provide an environment for students from disadvantaged social backgrounds that gives them confidence in school and the sense that what they learn relates to their current and future lives,'' Andreas Schleicher, special adviser on education policy to the OECD's secretary-general, told Fairfax Media.
When asked whether school had done little to prepare students for adult life, 81.4 per cent of Australian boys in the study and 81.3 per cent of girls disagreed – a difference of just 0.1 percentage points.
Across the 34 OECD countries, the gender gap was an average of nearly 4 percentage points.
The highest gender gaps on this question were in France (8.1 percentage points) and Mexico (8.7 percentage points).
Gender also made little difference in Australian students' views on whether school had taught them useful job skills and given them the confidence to make decisions.
But Australian girls (93.5 per cent) were a little more likely than boys (91.1 per cent) to dispute the claim school had been a waste of time.
University of Technology Sydney education head Rosemary Johnston said it was ''very encouraging'' that such a high percentage of 15-year-olds saw the value of school.
Professor Johnston said the Australian community placed school in high regard and gender did not appear to be a factor in those attitudes.
''I'm pleased with these results; I'm not surprised that there's no gender gap,'' Professor Johnston said. ''I think it's a reflection of Australian cultural attitudes and that's good but my concern is always for that 10 per cent, always for that 15 per cent, where we need to do better.''
When the results were broken down by socio-economic status, the study found a gap of up to 12.5 percentage points between the top quarter and the bottom quarter of students.
Some 88.3 per cent of students in the top quarter denied school had done little to prepare them for adulthood, compared with 75.8 per cent in the bottom quarter.
Professor Schleicher, also OECD deputy director for education, said Australia came out of the study ''rather well'', although he pointed out room for improvement.
''It is noteworthy that attitudes towards school in Australia tend to be more positive in private than in public schools and a lot more positive among socially advantaged students than in socially disadvantaged students,'' he said.
''The one thing that I found also interesting is that in Australia the attitudes of students with an immigrant background to school is basically the same as for those without an immigrant background.''
Professor Johnston, who runs programs for disadvantaged children, saw a need to continue efforts to help students who were struggling.
''Even the kids that aren't achieving in some of the programs that I run value school,'' she said.
''What we have to do is make them able to do better so that they don't feel disadvantaged.''