Teachers are Nazis who enforce meaningless rules and refuse to accept they can ever be wrong, according to pupils questioned for the Australian survey.
Those at single-sex boys' schools believed that their teachers were out of touch with the outside world. Instead, they thrived by carving out their own, classroom-based empires.
One 16-year-old boy said: "Life at school is like living in a Nazi camp.
With the exception of a few teachers, most are Hitler's followers with the attitude that they can never be wrong."
This was reinforced by comments from pupils at co-educational comprehensives. More than half the girls and almost two-thirds of the boys at an urban secondary were highly critical of school, often bemoaning teachers' inflexibility and the seemingly arbitrary controls on their freedom.
A 15-year-old boy said: "At our school we have a 6ft barbed wire fence all way round and teachers walk around with walkie-talkies and tell us how to dress and think they're superior to us just because they're staff."
Many felt that school was boring and that high levels of work only led to stress.
At a rural comprehensive, half the pupils also commented on the restrictive nature of school and its irrelevance to their lives outside.
But girls attending a single-sex school in an affluent area were far more positive, seeing their teachers as committed, rather than dictatorial. Only a fifth castigated teachers for excessive strictness and for enforcing "stupid rules".
The academics conclude that many of the codes of behaviour in place in schools ensure conformity to "white, middle-class norms".
"Many students felt school was out of touch with their everyday lives and rejected what they perceived as culturally irrelevant practices and knowledge," they said.