Yesterday the TES website had a feature on a survey carried out by Cambridge International Assessment (an exam board), as part of Global Perspectives Week.  About 11,000 students aged 13-19 responded; 800 were from the UK.  The TES reported that Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are seen as more trustworthy than teachers on global issues such as climate change and poverty.  Among UK respondents, only 6% cited a teacher as their most trusted source of information about global issues, against 12% who said it was social media.  However, both were far behind campaign organisations or charities, at 31%.

Overall (99%) of UK students felt it was important to learn about global issues in school, but 27% said they weren’t given the chance to do this.  The TES quotes Peter Monteath, Cambridge Assessment International’s regional director for Europe:

Students are aware of the impact [climate change] could have on their futures and are active in raising awareness of them, so it makes sense that they want to learn about this issue in the classroom, as well as the chance to debate with other students.  We believe schools should offer this opportunity, helping to direct keen minds to become engaged global citizens who want to find the innovative solutions to the complex problems we face.”

UK respondents were far more concerned about climate change than students elsewhere, with almost half (45%) flagging it as the most important issue facing the world, whereas only just over a quarter (26%) rated it most crucial overall.


If you click here, you will find Cambridge Assessment International’s own report on the survey.  The emphasis here is not so much on social media, as on the desire for more opportunities to learn about climate-related matters.  Here are some highlights:

  • Globally, more than a quarter (26%) of all the students who responded to the survey said climate change was the biggest issue facing the world today.  It topped the poll in three quarters of countries surveyed – the highest number of students opting for this were in Spain (46%), UK (45%), New Zealand (44%) and the United States (39%).
  • Only students in China, Indonesia and Brazil bucked the global trend.  Chinese and Indonesian students felt pollution including plastic waste was the number one concern, and students in Brazil said poverty and economic inequality was their top concern.  Globally, pollution and poverty and economic equality, were the second and third most chosen issues of concern.
  • Almost all students who took part in the survey (96%) believe it is important to learn about global issues in school. However, almost a third (31%) say they do not currently get the opportunity to do so, despite wanting to.
  • As a result, the research found many students around the world are turning to other sources of information to learn about global issues.  25% of all students surveyed said their most trusted source of information is produced by charities and organisations which are dedicated to particular global issues, 20% turn to the internet and 17% to social media.
  • 92% of young people globally, already take some form of action.  More than half (55%) raise awareness by sharing knowledge with family and friends, and 46% have made changes to their own lifestyle.  Almost two in five students raise awareness on social media (38%), 26% sign petitions and 21% give money to organisations working to address big issues.

The report ends with insights into a selection of countries:

Spain flag - imageAlmost half of Spanish students consider climate change as the most pressing issue facing the world today

UAE flagUAE students emerge as eco warriors in new study by Cambridge Assessment International Education

Global icon - imageSouth African students say climate change is the biggest issue facing the world today

Indonesia flag - imageIndonesian students are most concerned about pollution and many are taking action to tackle it

Global icon - imageFour out of five Malaysian Students want to pursue careers that tackle global issues

UK flagStudents call on schools to offer more education on global issues

If only 6% of UK students see teachers as their most trusted source of information about global issues, that seems an indictment, not so much of teachers, but of schools that fail to prove sufficient opportunities for this to happen.

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