The World’s Largest Lesson – an initiative led by Project Everyone and UNICEF, and NetApp, a cloud-led, data-centric software company, has announced the findings from one of the largest global surveys of education ever which garnered 37k responses from young people in 150+ countries, many sharing their views for the first time.
The gamified survey revealed an overwhelming call for a modernization of curricula to mirror more closely the realities, skill sets, and demands of today’s society and the future.
When students were asked what they believe the purpose of school should be, 48% responded related to gaining practical skills for the real world. However, the reality of their education does not reflect this.
Commenting on the findings, Alison Bellwood, Executive Director of World’s Largest Lesson, said,
We’re in the middle of a global learning crisis. Students are imagining a future that is very different from the one their current curriculums were developed for. They want to be ready to thrive in new, green economies and to help build a sustainable world. Children have spoken. It’s the responsibility of education policy makers to listen to them.
The good news, according to the report, is that 77% of students are happy to be back at school after COVID-19, and they’ve shared thousands of ideas about what they want to see changed in education.
The future of education is Practical Skills
When asked whether they were learning enough about a range of topics, 61% of students worldwide said they feel they are learning not enough or not at all about digital skills like programming and coding. Around 5000 students from India were interviewed- constituting the second-largest respondent group. Nearly 50% said that they are learning a key range of digital skills. A close second with almost 59% call for financial literacy or how to make a budget with 55% wanting to understand how to analyze and use data.
Michelle Mann, Director of Social Impact at NetApp, said,
In today’s world, it has never been more critical for data literacy skills to be taught in classrooms. Data is, increasingly, the foundation for informed decision-making around so many important social, technological, and environmental issues— including a child’s own education. NetApp is committed to helping empower student voices and ensure leaders make room for them in educational discussions so they can share data-informed insights on how they would like to learn.
To address the need for data science learning experiences, NetApp created a global social impact program called Data Explorers. It’s a hands-on afterschool program focusing on reaching under-represented students in under-resourced communities.
Understanding Mental Health, other Cultures, and the Environment
While being prepared for jobs and the future were top of mind, the survey revealed that a further 44% wanted to learn more about how to look after their mental health and wellbeing, with 33% reporting they feel anxious to be back at school after COVID-19. 42% of students reported wanting to understand different cultures and a further 42% wanted to learn more about how to protect the planet.
Tanishi, 14, a member of the World’s Largest Lesson Student Advisory Panel member based in India, said,
Asking what young people want from their education is the first step of change. It is similar to what the marketing division of a business does when they research what their customers want… If the customers here are students, to make their education more efficient and helpful, asking students about what they want from education is essential.
Global Voices, Shared Needs
When asked for ideas on how to change education, the most common global theme was practical skills attainment, at 33% and a further 21% mentioned being more informed on key issues. As one student puts it “It is important to study the past, I know, but now we are living in the present and I want to know how to live in this world.”
Nearly 20% talked about changing how they learn, like reducing pressure to succeed in exams or allowing students more individual choices. One student said, “This egg-carton model impedes professional growth and change.” Another said, “I would reinvent the relationship with my teachers: today they act as they were ‘superior’ while they should act as our mentor.”
While we’ve heard calls to modernize education before, this survey has allowed children themselves to speak up and add their voices, many for the first time. According to the report, together they’ve shared more than 25 thousand ideas of their own to transform education, from “allow students to choose the subjects they want to study” and “study in nature” to “being able to experiment” and experience “life learning lessons”.
Could this be the tipping point to a bold redirection of education? If so, the report argues that governments must consult and include children in their decision-making, so that education reflects those that it serves.
About the Survey
In 2022, World’s Largest Lesson and NetApp launched the Transforming Education Survey globally. They worked with Play Verto, experts in designing playful interactive data experiences, in the creation of the survey.
The survey invited children and young people aged 10-18 around the world to share their views and ideas on education. It asked questions about how they felt COVID-19 had impacted their learning, what they like about their education, and what they’d like to change. The survey is one element of the World’s Largest Lesson 2022 created to help children and young people, aged 10 and above, become activists for SDG4: Quality Education.