They flashed like beacons against the long dark sweep of the pandemic: reports of teenagers helping their teachers, parents and siblings adapt to emergency remote learning. News stories about students lobbying their city government to allocate millions for broadband and devices to help close the digital divide. Images of young adults with masks and megaphones marching for social justice every night in cities around the world.
These bursts of light not only made the past 16 months bearable, they inspired hope for our collective future beyond COVID-19. And now, the latest Pearson Global Learner Survey suggests that this hope is well-founded.
According to global polling by our research partner Morning Consult of more than 6,000 college students and parents of school-aged children, this generation of young people is emerging from the traumas of the pandemic with profound reserves of empathy, resilience, and adaptability. Specifically, the Global Learner Survey found that young people around the world are:
- newly attuned to the hardships of others – some 75% of college students and 83% of parents of school aged children report new awareness and caring.
- determined to drive social change to address injustice – three quarters of parents indicate their children have awakened to social issues and 67% of college students report the same, with education, racial equality, and healthcare at the top of their lists.
- prepared to tackle careers that make a difference – half or more of college students and parents of school aged children say the pandemic has inspired a reconsideration of future work, with a newly ignited interest in science, health care, or entrepreneurship.
- committed to internet access as a basic human right – nearly 90% of those surveyed said government and society must ensure access for all.
While the media this past year was replete with headlines about the educational toll of interrupted schooling and the mental health effects of social isolation, Global Learner Survey respondents grow more confident daily about the ability of young people to bounce back – better. Two thirds have seen personal growth through new interests and closer family relationships, development of useful skills in self-motivation and digital savvy, and an enduring sense of resilience from having been tested by the global health crisis.
Future commentators will no doubt seek to brand this cohort of young people with a catchy label, à la Zennials or Gen X. Based on the Global Learner Survey and the stories I hear from young people around the world, I propose “The Inspiration Generation.”
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