A Snapshot of a Year 9 cohort: hopes and fears about personal, community and global futures

Year: 2016

Author: Zipin, Lew, Brennan, Marie, Burridge, Peter, Dumenden, Iris

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Fifteen-year-olds are an important educational policy focus, with Year 9 NAPLAN and PISA tests forming the basis of major political debates in Australia, yet rarely are their perspectives brought into such debates, in particular, their views of the future. How young people feel about the future comes up in many guises: subjects choices for senior study, preferred work experience options, level of engagement and achievement at school—to mention only those more immediately experienced. This paper examines students’ perspectives on futures as recorded in a survey at one school, prior to students’ inquiry research into local community futures. The paper emerges from the ARC Discovery project, Capacitating student aspirations in classrooms and communities of a high poverty region (DP1201014920), of how young people read their present social worlds and anticipate/aspire to futures. A key methodological element is young people conducting research into changing dimensions of local community, as part of Year 9 curriculum.The survey was conducted as an online, anonymous questionnaire, modified from earlier UK studies in 1994 and 2004 (Hicks & Holden 1995, 2007; Holden 2006). There were 82 respondents drawn from five Year 9 classes at an outer-suburban secondary school. The questionnaire canvassed whether students expected the future to be much better, better, about the same, worse or much worse for themselves, their local communities, and the world. They were also asked specific questions about hopes and fears, and their views on issues such as global warming, war and conflict, developing countries, Indigenous peoples and multiculturalism. In analysing the data, we compare responses across different groups—for example, ‘accelerated’ class and mainstream, boys and girls, optimists and pessimists—as well as the content of their hopes and fears and areas for proactive possibility. Findings include a trend towards more optimistic futures anticipations for themselves as individuals, compared to their local communities or wider worlds. Notably, there were strong similarities to the findings of the 1994/2004 UK studies, suggesting trends that hold across different national settings and over decades of ‘neoliberal shift’. ReferencesHicks, D. & Holden, C. (1995) Visions of the future: why we need to teach for tomorrow (Stoke-on- Trent, Trentham Books). Hicks, D. & Holden, C. (2007): Remembering the future: what do children think?, Environmental Education Research, 13:4, 501-512. Holden, C. (2006) Concerned citizens: children and the future. Education, Citizenship & Social Justice 1:3, 231-247.