Dublin, Ireland. November 17th, 2016:
Children around the world consider education a priority, despite less than ideal circumstances for learning. According to a survey by ChildFund Alliance of more than 6,000 children aged 10 to 12 in 41 countries, including Ireland, 98 percent of total respondents say education is important to them. However, the findings also show that learning isn’t as accessible or safe as it should be. More than one-third of children polled, including some 100 from Ireland, say they feel unsafe at school either sometimes or all the time. They also say that more and better schools are needed.
Grown-up Concerns; Childlike Optimism
“The Small Voices, Big Dreams survey reveals that many of the children polled believe their education is in need of improvement,” said Meg Gardinier, Secretary General of ChildFund Alliance. “They are worried about issues ranging from unsafe facilities, disaster protocols and lock-downs, to weapons, drugs and bullying in schools. These are not issues children should have to contemplate School should be about learning, not about fears for their personal safety.”
The good news is that despite these concerns, children love to learn. “Learning new things” is the number one response from 47 percent of those polled when asked what they like most about school. This is followed by “working with teachers” (29 percent) and “being with friends” (26 percent). And, at this young age, children know that education is the key to their future. Almost half of all respondents (45 percent) say education can help them get a better job, while nearly a quarter are confident it will make them a better person. Others believe school will prepare them to care for their parents (17 percent) or help improve their homeland (17 percent).
97% of Irish children say their education is important to them with 66% saying this was because it would help them find a good job when they grow up. Some 18% of Irish children surveyed said that education was important because “being educated would allow me to make a difference in my country”.
Children Want to Be Safe at School
When asked what it means to be safe at school, children identified a range of factors. These include high quality facilities, feeling free from violence or abuse, having strong security measures in place, and learning from teachers that students trust and respect. However, 34 percent of those polled say their school is never or only sometimes safe. Surprisingly, these figures do not vary between developing or developed countries.
In Ireland, some 71% of Irish children surveyed said they always felt safe at school, with 16% indicating that school is “sometimes safe”.
When asked about solutions, 43 percent of all respondents in the 41 countries surveyed say they would feel safe at school if security measures existed to keep students protected from harm.
“The fact that so many do not feel safe at school is of great concern, as safety is a prerequisite for learning,” said Meg Gardinier. “The world’s leaders recognised the importance of safe, meaningful education when they adopted the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #4 in September 2015: ‘Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.’”
When Irish children were asked to describe what it means to be safe at school, their answers included; “it means that you learn with freedom”; “it means being able to express yourself”; “school is a place to learn and to have fun, not to feel dread going in to”; “I feel protected at school by my teachers and my friends”.
A High Premium on Quality Facilities and Teachers
ChildFund Alliance asked children what they would do to improve education if they were the leader of their country. Almost half (47 percent) would build and renovate school facilities and create high quality learning environments, while 24 percent would focus on the quality of teaching by hiring more staff, paying them well and providing additional training.
For children in some countries, providing greater financial support to schools and students is a top priority.
Work Vs. School
Many of the children polled for Small Voices, Big Dreams feel torn between family and school obligations. A bigger concern in the developing than in developed countries, it is nonetheless restricting childhood activities around the world.
One-quarter of all respondents (26 percent) say they have missed school to help family with work. In developing countries, the number climbs to 31 percent, versus 8 percent in developed.
Despite Challenges, Encouraging Progress
“We are encouraged that almost all children recognise the importance of education,” said Meg Gardinier. “While achieving inclusive and equitable quality education for all seems ambitious, there has been much progress. The number of children and young people not attending school has almost halved since the turn of the century and in most countries there are now as many girls as boys in primary school.
“ChildFund Alliance is committed to doing all we can to provide children around the world with a safe, quality education.”
To download the Small Voices, Big Dreams report, visit Small Voices, Big Dreams Report 2016
Join the conversation with the hashtag #SmallVoices.