Are students happy in school? Do they feel like they have a purpose? Is our education system failing them?
We now have insight into these questions after hearing from 37,000 students across the globe how they feel about their education.
The World’s Largest Lesson recently released the report from their Transforming Education survey for students which took place from June 2022 to January 2023. The survey gathered responses from 37,000 young people in 150 countries answering these three basic questions: how does education feel right now, what is education’s purpose, and do you encourage educational change in your school?
The answers are very compelling.
How Does Education Feel Right Now?
Students at large are happy to be in-person at school again (a staggering 80%), but many are feeling anxious returning to school as well. Those students who believe they have fallen behind their peers during distance learning are experiencing a higher degree of anxiety. A large percentage of the students who feel this way are in lower social progress countries with restricted access to digital resources.
While some students reported being happier learning from home, the majority of students believe in-person schooling helps them learn. Many students said that a combination of working in groups with others, listening to teachers, and being creative is the best way to learn.
There were also some startling revelations about what education is not offering students. A staggering 41% reported they are not learning how to develop digital skills, 41% don’t feel they are learning how to analyze data, and 59% say they are not being taught how to manage money. Similar percentages were discovered when it came to mental health and climate education.
These are some powerful statistics to wake us up to the question: how much are we practically preparing students for life outside of academia?
COVID-19 and distance learning has disadvantaged students in lower social progress countries who feel they’ve fallen behind their peers.
Online learning is students’ least favorite way to learn.
Students feel education in practical and skill-based areas is lacking.
What Is The Purpose of Education?
Around the globe, young people say they go to school for pretty much the same reason: to have a good career. Around 61% responded saying that was the purpose of education.
Interestingly, 40% of students world-wide also reported that they believed adults wanted them to go to school to have a good career. This begs the question: to what degree are parental and societal expectations limiting young people’s view of their own education?
Overall, students had a positive association with education and with learning. But they expressed negativity when it came to tests and grades. Many believe their curriculum is outdated in its subject matter and that relying on grades to measure success limits real learning.
When asked directly what they wanted changed in their curriculum, students were very descriptive and clear minded.
Across the globe, young people overwhelmingly voiced a desire for these top 3 changes.
1. Practical skills attainment – learning new skills
2. Being informed – knowing what is going on in the world
3. Knowledge attainment – learning new information
Clearly, young people are aware that the world is operating with a different set of values and concerns – which are not currently reflected in the education system.
· Students believe education’s purpose is to have a good career.
· When asked what they would have changed in education, students are very imaginative and have colorful descriptions for what education could be.
· Top 3 curriculum changes are attaining practical skills, being informed about world events, and gaining new knowledge.
· Students want schools to focus less on tests, more on alternative ways of assessment.
What Needs to Change?
This is perhaps the most heartbreaking section of the survey. Students were asked whether they contributed to making education better at their school. 35% responded “Yes, all the time.” 20% responded, “No, but I would like to.” And 11% responded, “No-one would listen to me if I tried.”
This last response is troublesome – the degree of disbelief in their power to effect change seems counter to what we see online of young people standing IN their power. What’s going on with the 11%?
The survey followed-up on the question asking what qualities students believed were necessary for effecting change and whether they were being taught those skills. 32% said courage and determination were necessary. When asked if they were taught these skills, 41% responded with “I don’t know” or “No.”
This is telling because 75% of those students who said they help better education also said they were taught skills that allowed them to do so.
Students need to be taught the skills in order to encourage change and become leaders. If we are not teaching them these character skills, they are left feeling that they are unable to help – a state which can lead to apathy and self-dislike. It’s important for us to be teaching students character qualities they need to move forward confidently in the world.
Students need to be taught the character qualities required to effect change.
1% of students said they didn’t believe anyone would listen to them if they tried to improve their school.
Of those who positively changed their schools, 75% said they felt they’d been