Posted on January 29, 2020

An overwhelming majority of young people believe that their generation should take responsibility for improving the world, according to research by Qatar Foundation’s global education think tank - but less than half of those surveyed say they have the tools to take action.

The results of an international survey by the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE), released on the International Day of Education, offer a new insight into how young people perceive their education and how prepared they feel to face the future.

The Global Education Barometer assesses how confident the world’s youth feel about their future and how well their education systems are preparing them to confront challenges. Conducted by Ipsos, the survey studied 9,509 young people aged 16-25 across 20 countries in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe. While the key findings will be included in work conducted by UNESCO’s Futures of Education and CRI’s Learning Planet Initiatives, the initial results were revealed during the Learning for People, Planet, Prosperity and Peace conference at UNESCO’s International Day of Education in Paris, France on January 24.

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Elyas Felfoul, Director of Policy Development and Partnerships at WISE, said during the event that entering a new decade is the perfect opportunity to assess and reinvent education systems for future success. “We’re all well aware of the rapid changes on the horizon that will radically shift the world we live in,” he said. “How can the main institutions help create an education system that adapts to these radical changes? “We need to create a new roadmap, to make it easier for the next generation to join this effort so that once they’re ready to lead, they’re going to feel well-equipped.”

The study showed that young people have a heightened awareness of the challenges facing the world, with 85 percent of those surveyed expressing fears about the state of the planet. Meanwhile, 87 percent of young people said it was the responsibility of their generation to make the world a better place, with poverty and social inequality, climate change and the environment, and access to employment being the most pressing issues. But when the group surveyed was asked whether they felt ready to take action on such challenges, only half responded favorably and less than half said they truly understood major societal issues or felt ready to find solutions. Young people from Morocco, India, and China were the most actively engaged around at least one cause.

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The study then assessed what role education systems play in preparing students to address global challenges. While nearly 90 percent of those surveyed said that education meant more than learning for a career and was valuable in itself, only a small minority said they looked to their schooling to make them more active and well-rounded citizens. The young people who participated in the survey said that the most important reasons for attending school were to expand their knowledge and prepare them for the future, and to find a job and make money. Meanwhile, they placed relying on school to learn about the world around them and enable them to make a positive impact on their communities much further down the list of reasons – sixth and ninth respectively. And while 90 percent of those surveyed said that understanding new technologies were important for the future, only 80 percent felt that they either completely or somewhat understood such technologies.

The results of the survey also revealed that even if students do not feel prepared to take on major societal changes, they are happy overall with their education. Among those who participated, 80 percent said they were either satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their schooling, with those from Finland, Mexico and India being the most content. However, the findings still represent a call to education systems to assess whether or not their curricula are appropriately addressing the world’s challenges, how to spark students’ interest in global concerns, and better ways of offering tools to improve student readiness – whether through new technologies or leadership skills.

“We have a system that must be transformed,” said Felfoul. “We want to make sure that the education space responds to the immediate needs of young people to make a living but, at the same time, respond to greater aspirations, to make this world a better place.”