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Global Survey of 37k School Students Reveals Desire to Modernise Education

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World’s Largest Lesson Gives Voices to Students in One of The Largest Global Education Surveys Ever

The World’s Largest Lesson – an initiative led by Project Everyone and UNICEF – and NetApp a cloud-led, data-centric software company, today announce 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 modernisation of curricula to mirror more closely the realities, skill sets and demands of today’s society and the future.

The Reality

When students were asked what they believe the purpose of school should be 48% of responses related to gaining practical skills for the real world. However, the reality of their education does not reflect this.

“We’re in the middle of a global learning crisis, ” says Alison Bellwood, Executive Director of World’s Largest Lesson. “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 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 The 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. A close second with almost 59% calling for financial literacy or how to make a budget with 55% wanting to understand how to analyse and use data.

“In today’s world, it has never been more critical for data literacy skills to be taught in classrooms,” Michelle Mann, Director, Social Impact at NetApp. “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 call 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, 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 put 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, for example reducing pressure to succeed in exams or allowing students more individual choice. 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.”

Call to Action

While we’ve heard calls to modernise education before, this survey has allowed children themselves to speak up and add their voices, many for the first time. 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. As Matilda, 12, World’s Largest Lesson Student Advisory Panel member in Greece put it, “We are the future, and we need to decide what we want the future of the world to look like”.

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