More than 11,000 students aged 13 to 19 took part in the exam board’s first-ever ‘Global Perspectives’ survey. They were asked to share their views on global issues, how they learn about them, and how their awareness of these issues might impact their future career choices.
Environmental issues took centre stage, with students in the US, Spain, India, the UAE, South Africa, China, India, Indonesia, and the UK all expressing concerns about climate change and pollution.
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.
Christine Özden, chief executive at Cambridge International said that there are “huge” global challenges ahead in our constantly evolving world.
“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,” she said.
Concern about the climate crisis was widespread; 46% of Spanish students chose climate change as their biggest issue of concern, which was the most out of any other country.
In the UK, climate change was also named as the biggest issue by 45% of respondents.
In the US, 39% said that climate change was the biggest global issue, with pollution – including plastic waste – viewed as the second biggest issue by this cohort.
A quarter (24%)of students in the UAE voted climate change as the single biggest issue, followed by pollution (16%).
In India and Malaysia, 26% of students named climate change as the world’s biggest issue.
“The results of the survey… show that young people are increasingly concerned about world problems such as climate change, and pollution and plastic waste,” said Nick Mazur, senior manager Europe for Cambridge International.
“It is vital that schools equip students with the skills to help understand the breadth of information available on these topics.”
However, while almost all students who took part in the survey (96%) believe it is important to learn about global issues in school, almost a third (31%) say they do not currently get the opportunity to do so.
As a result, the survey found many students are turning to other sources for their information.
A quarter of students surveyed said their most trusted source of information is produced by charities and organisations which are dedicated to particular global issues, one in five turn to the internet and 17% to social media.
“With the impacts of climate change and poverty dominating headlines, global issues have never felt more local,” said Peter Monteath, regional director Europe at Cambridge International.
Monteath said schools should offer an opportunity to learn about such issues, by helping to “direct keen minds to become engaged global citizens who want to find the innovative solutions to the complex problems we face”.
“Students are aware of the impact these [issues] could have on their futures… 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,” he added.