Study: Children critical of school despite good results

(Postimees/Scanpix)
5/19/2015 6:22 PM
Category: Education

A newly published study shows how Estonian 8-12 year-olds are tensely occupied with school, hobbies and computers, but critical of the education system and themselves.

The Children's Words survey of children's subjective well-being involved more than 53,000 pupils in 15 countries from four continents.

In Estonia, over 3,000 children were asked about their view of their lives and well-being across the country, in city and rural schools alike. Questions ranged from family structure, home situation, and neighborhood to extracurricular activities. Researchers were also interested in the school environment, children's self-esteem, and satisfaction with their health, body, looks and surroundings.

The results show that Estonian children are generally satisfied with their home life, but tend to be very critical of the school and life at large.

Estonian children have the least amount of free time of all 15 countries in the study, and spend a lot of time doing school homework. Over 90 percent say they do homework every day and 80 percent use a computer on a daily basis. Estonian 10-12 year-olds also stand out for their high engagement rate in extracurricular activities.

Last week, OECD published its global school rankings in which Estonia occupied a high 7th place in the world, and second behind Finland in Europe, showing that the students have excellent basic skills. Yet, the students themselves are very critical of the system that provides this highly-regarded education.

Dagmar Kutsar from the Institute of Social Studies, University of Tartu, who saw the study through in Estonia, said dissatisfaction with school grows as the children get older. Like in Germany, there are many children who dislike going to school altogether, while their peers in the developing countries harbor very different feelings. The students here are not happy with the general school atmosphere, as well as with how little their views are heard and needs taken into account by their teachers.

Kutsar told ERR Novaator that about tenth of the children they questioned struggle in the traditional school environment. Every tenth child has also experienced verbal or physical bullying.

The result-orientated system is putting a lot of pressure on children, lowering the self-esteem of those who fail to excel in the academic environment, she explained. Hence, alongside the focus put on achieving good results in international tests, schools should also start paying more attention to teaching methods and building a supportive learning environment, one that offers all children a sense of success they crave for. It's the learning process, not just the results that matter.

“Well-being is created during the learning process, so there isn't a substantial statistical relation between good results and satisfaction rates,” Kutsar said. “Children who have better grades are not necessarily happier or more satisfied than those not doing so well. The latter, in turn, are not always more dissatisfied with schools.”

Click here to read the detailed report that presents findings from over 30,000 children aged 10 to 12 and provides new comparative insights into the context of children’s lives, how children spend their time and how they feel about their lives around the world. The selection of countries includes Norway, the UK, Spain, Poland, Romania, Germany, Algeria, Colombia, Ethiopia, Israel, South Africa, South Korea, Nepal and Turkey.

M. Oll

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