Landmark intergenerational survey shows that 73 per cent of young people surveyed in India believe that education has improved over the past generation

NEW DELHI – Nearly 73 per cent of young Indian respondents between 15 – 24 years of age believe that the quality of education has gotten better now than it was in the past, according to a new international survey across 21 countries, including India, by UNICEF and Gallup released ahead of World Children’s Day.

The survey also shows that 57 per cent of younger people between 15-24 years of age and 45 per cent of people above 40 years of age surveyed in India feel that education is the biggest determinant of success.

There were different perceptions between men and women when it comes to education. Nearly 78 per cent of women respondents above 40 years of age from India feel that education for children today is better than it was for their parents, compared to 72 per cent of older men. In addition, at 59 per cent, girls between 15-24 are more convinced than others that education plays a role in success. Furthermore, 67 per cent of girls feel that digital technology has helped children in education, compared to 59 per cent of boys.

The survey,The Changing Childhood Project, is the first of its kind to ask multiple generations for their views on the world and what it is like to be a child today. It surveyed more than 21,000 people of 15-24 years and 40 years and above in 21 countries, including in India, in early 2021. Respondents from India were surveyed before the second deadly wave of COVID-19 this year.

“In India, where an overwhelming number of the world’s young people reside, it is heartening to see the optimism and value attached to education,” said Yasumasa Kimura, UNICEF India Representative a.i. “Clearly women and girls see greater value in education, given the tremendous progress that India has made in girls’ education over the past decades. This progress is now at stake due to the COVID-19 pandemic and school closures, especially for girls who have less access to technology and are more likely to be burdened with household chores and child marriage. To prevent any reversals in achievements in girls’ education, we must invest in education and get children safely back to schools.”

According to UNESCO, globally the gender parity in primary and secondary education improved from about 90 girls enrolled for every 100 boys in 1995 to an equal number of both girls and boys enrolled in 2018. The global trends were led by progress in India, where more girls than boys were enrolled in primary and secondary education. Now during the COVID-19 pandemic, a UNICEF India assessment of learning during school closures across 6 states in 2020 found that girls were more affected than boys. Fewer girls used high-tech tools such as smart phones, computers and laptops for remote learning during school closures. Girls’ usage was 8 per cent lower than that of boys.

The unique intergenerational survey finds that besides education, young Indians are also optimistic about their future when it comes to physical safety, and economic progress. For example, 64 per cent of young people aged 15-24 in India are likely to believe that the world is becoming a better place. This was higher than the average across 21 countries, which was 57 per cent. In addition, 70 per cent of young people from India believe that physical safety has gotten better over the past generation.

The survey findings from India also show some perception gaps between younger and older respondents:

  • 71 per cent of older people believe that children will be economically better off than their parents, compared to 66 per cent for younger children.
  • 57 per cent of young people use the internet daily, compared to 27 per cent of older people – the fourth largest generation difference among 21 countries.
  • 55 per cent younger people have heard of climate change compared to 42 per cent older people – the biggest overall gap across 21 countries. The younger generation is much more likely to blame companies for climate change.
  • Respondents in India have the second biggest generational gap in saying it is acceptable for parents to physically punish a child (55 per cent younger, 47 per cent older). Shockingly, India also has the second highest share of young people who believe it is ok for teachers to physically strike children, a practice which should normally be unacceptable.

Despite the differences, respondents from both generations agree on some issues. India is the only country where the majority of young people as well as older people believe their country would be safer if it worked more on its own. India also has very low numbers of young and older people who identify with being part of the world. In fact, at 17 per cent, India had the second lowest per cent of young people among 21 countries who feel they identify most with being a part of the world.

The survey also found that 65 per cent of young respondents from India believe that it is very important for politicians to listen to children’s voices. On World Children’s Day – celebrated every year on 20th November – children from across the country will present a charter of their demands to safe reopening of schools and learning recovery in a session with Indian Members of Parliament. This is part of week-long Child Rights Week observed by UNICEF and partners from National Children’s Day on 14 to World Children’s Day on 20 November to raise awareness for millions of children who have missed out on their right to education and to call for urgent support to learning recovery.

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