According to new research by Cambridge International, young people in South Africa say climate change is the single biggest issue affecting the world today and almost all believe they should be learning about it in school.
Over 11,000 students aged 13 to 19 took part in Cambridge International’s first-ever Global Perspectives survey and shared their views on global issues; how they learn about them; and how their awareness of these issues might impact on their future career choices.
The survey revealed that there is a clear desire from students to learn more about global issues like climate change in school, with 98% of South African students saying that it is important to do so. However, 30% of South African students say they don’t currently learn about global issues in school despite wanting to.
More than a quarter 28% of South African students voted climate change as the global issue they are most concerned about. Poverty and economic inequality came second in the poll of and pollution (including plastic waste) came third. Globally, a quarter 26% of all the students who responded to the survey said they felt climate change was the biggest issue facing the world today. It topped the poll in three quarters of countries surveyed.
South African students are more concerned about protecting species and habitats than students in any other country surveyed. 10% highlighted this as their biggest concern, compared to 5% of students who said this globally.
Young people in South Africa are not just concerned, they are proactively taking action to tackle global issues, like climate change. 92% said they take some form of action to raise awareness. In particular, over half 51% of them say they share knowledge with family and friends; 43% are making changes to their own lifestyle and 38% encourage others to make similar lifestyle changes.
More than half 54% of South African students said better access to information would encourage them to raise more awareness of global issues. And many said they would be more active in raising awareness if there was a high-profile campaign they could join or if there was time dedicated to learning about these issues in school.
86% of South African students surveyed said they would like to pursue a career where they can make a positive contribution to solving global issues. And four out of five students said they will consider a potential employers’ attitude to key global issues when applying for jobs in the future.
Juan Visser, Cambridge International’s Regional Director for Sub-Saharan Africa, said: “It is clear from the findings of the survey that students want to learn more about global issues in school, particularly because nearly nine out of ten students want to pursue careers that contribute to solving world issues. The youth of South Africa have a powerful voice, one that leads to change. They need to be provided with the critical skills to research, explore and learn in order to navigate and challenge global issues facing the world, like climate change.”
Christine Özden, Chief Executive, Cambridge International, said: “In a world that is constantly evolving with some huge global challenges ahead, we feel that it is even more important that students not only engage with key global issues, but develop the skills to research, discuss and evaluate the facts, and work with others to understand different perspectives around the world.
“Cambridge Global Perspectives promotes the importance of students building skills for life and we aim to continue to educate, drive collaboration and offer an opportunity for more students and schools to be a part of this unique programme during Cambridge Global Perspectives Week.”
The survey was conducted leading up to Cambridge Global Perspectives Week, which runs from 1-7 March 2020.