When I grow up I want to be…

Image: Small Voices, Big Dreams (ChildFund Alliance)

“I have a list of what I want to be when I grow up,” says my son “First, inventor, then game developer and then scientist.”

I applaud that list, but he is in true proto-geek fashion running entirely against the trend. When the ChildFund Alliance surveyed children around the world, most children in developed countries wanted to become either a professional athlete or a performing artist. Modern technology or science based professions simply didn’t get a look-in.

But at the same time when asked what they would do as a president to improve children’s lives, the universal answer was that they would improve education – more sports classes perhaps? I understand kids see the excitement of being an athlete or a rock star; but, really, we’re pitching science all wrong when more kids want to join the police or take a job in a service industry than aspire to be a scientist.

Another facet of the report that I found interesting was when the same question about what you want to be when you grow up was directed at children in developing countries they overwhelmingly wanted to be a teacher or a doctor. I’m guessing that reflects the people having the greatest influence on their lives as well as a highly visible aspirational step.

A further interesting contrast is that when asked what they would want to do if they got to stay home all day, many children from developing countries answered that they wanted to do their homework; none from developed countries said that. (Sort of worryingly given their major export, the kids from the Philippines said they would do housework.)

I wouldn’t characterise the Report as giving any deeply shocking insights, but sometimes it’s good to have a study provide evidence for what you might have guessed anyway. And there are some unexpected responses in the Report. Kids in Sri Lanka are apparently not worried about much;  New Zealand kids are apparently a hungry lot, rating making more food available as more significant than improving education; and in Laos most kids aspire to be a car, truck or bicycle owner when they grow up.

The Report, entitled Small Voices, Big Dreams can be found here.

Note: I found this thanks to an article in today’s Sydney Morning Herald but I can’t find it reproduced on their website to link to.

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