Children in England near bottom in international happiness table
Eight-year-olds in England are less happy than those in Estonia, Poland and Turkey, a survey suggests, with body image and school identified as areas they are particularly troubled by.
England ranked 13th out of 16 countries when it came to children’s life satisfaction, according to the international survey. Only South Korea, Nepal and Ethiopia fared worse overall.
Romania, notorious for the terrible state of its orphanages 25 years ago, now ranks top of the league in eight-year-olds’ self-reported life satisfaction, according to the research by Children’s Worlds. Colombia, a country riven by decades of civil war, came third, while Poland was second.
Jonathan Bradshaw, professor of social policy at the University of York, who co-edited the report, said the findings were shocking. He said: “You will see that we come bottom of the league table on quite a lot of things – very unhappy with the way you look and your own body; relationships with teachers are poor; dissatisfaction with school performance; dissatisfaction with the area in which you live; quite dissatisfied with family life, although not so much the people you live with and the house you live in.”
Coordinated in England by York’s Social Policy Research Unit, the study asked children to rate how they felt about key aspects of their lives. Questions touched on family and home life, friendships, money and possessions, school life, local area, time use, personal wellbeing, views on children’s rights, and overall happiness.
The world's happiest children
Romania， Turkey， Israel， Poland， Colombia，Malta， Spain， Algeria，UK， South Africa， Norway， Estonia， Germany， South Korea， Ethiopia， Nepal
Most respondents were happy with their lives as a whole, with only about 6% across the various nations reporting low wellbeing – the figure ranged from below 3% in Colombia and Romania to over 9% in Ethiopia, South Korea and England.
The 990 English children questioned ranked no higher than eighth for any of the survey’s happiness measures, with feelings about relationships with teachers, enjoyment of outdoor areas, their own bodies and the way they look ranking particularly badly.
They were most positive about their health and their relationships with other people in general, but still ranked only eighth – around the middle of the table – in those areas overall when compared to other countries in the study.
When it came to material possessions, almost all English respondents said they had access to good clothes, compared with 85% in Ethiopia, and 88% of British children indicated they had access to the internet, compared with just 6% in Nepal.
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Asked about bullying at school, a fifth of children in England said they had been hit by fellow pupils more than three times in the past month, compared with almost a quarter in Estonia and just 6% in South Korea.
Looking at issues around how young people see themselves, children in England came in the bottom five when asked about their appearance and body. Colombia and Romania came top.
Bradshaw pointed out that there seemed to be little relationship between a country’s prosperity and the happiness of its children, all but ruling out affluenza as a cause of relative dissatisfaction with life.
“There is something going on in the UK and it seems to be focused on self-esteem and confidence,” he said. “It’s very difficult to prescribe what to do about it, but I think one thing that we certainly ought to do is make more effort to manage bullying.
“I think schools in Britain really need to be friendlier places, more concerned with social relationships and less focused on attainment.”
He added: “It’s interesting that Norwegians are much happier at school than we are. They don’t do so well in the educational attainment league table. I think their schools are happier places, but they are perhaps not as successful in achieving attainment outcomes – there’s a bit of a trade-off there. We perhaps haven’t got the balance right.”
Gwyther Rees, Bradshaw’s colleague at the Social Policy Research Unit, who wrote the report, said: “There are some quite troubling messages from England and the picture is quite similar to what we found with older age groups.
“Children are happy at home and with friends but less happy at school where there seems to be an issue around bullying and being left out.”
Simon Sommer, head of research at the Jacobs Foundation, which funded the work, described the project as groundbreaking, revealing information from eight-year-olds’ own perspectives.
A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “All children have the right to be taught in a happy, safe and supportive environment, where they have the opportunity to fulfil their potential. Bullying of any kind is unacceptable and all schools must have measures in place to tackle it. That is why we are providing more than £7m to help schools tackle bullying head on.
“We are also promoting greater use of counselling in schools, improving teaching about mental health, and supporting joint working between mental health services and schools. This will ensure that children can thrive both inside and out the classroom.”
10 Countries that have the Happiest Students in the World
Percentage of students who report being happy at school: 90.4
With GDP $38,000 per capita, Iceland is the wealthiest country on our list. One of the most interesting facts about education in Iceland is that students can easily drop out from school and reenter later in life. As a matter of fact, many students graduate from upper secondary schools after the age of 25.
Martin M303/Shutterstock.com 10 Countries that have the Happiest Students in the World
Percentage of students who report being happy at school 90.5
Recent economic growth allowed the former Soviet Union republic Kazakhstan to open dozens of new schools across the country. This is the state with the lowest non-attendance rate among primary and secondary school children on our list. Moreover, Kazakhstan can be proud of the fact that children generally have equal access to education regardless of gender, and their socio-economic backgrounds.
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8. Costa Rica
Percentage of students who report being happy at school 90.6
Costa Rica is a place where the happiest people on planet live, at least that’s what Happy Planet Index claims. Since children and adolescents account for nearly one-third of the state population, it is not a surprise that young Costa Ricans found their place on this list. Still, it should be mentioned that one of the problems which Costa Rica’s educational system faces is high non-attendance rate among secondary school students. The rate is as high as 18.4 percent partly because great number of children from immigrant and indigenous families are out of the system.
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Percentage of students who report being happy at school 90.9
Mexico has one of the youngest nation in the world with 35 percent of population under the age of 18. Although in recent years, Mexico’s economy has been expanding (in 2011 the annual growth rate was 4%, and in 2014, 2.1%), one of the major challenges it faces is great difference in income, especially between urban and rural regions, which affects children access to education. In poorer parts of Mexico, children drop out from school to work.
Most Expensive Places To Visit In Mexico 10 Countries that have the Happiest Students in the World
Percentage of students who report being happy at school 91.4
In Malaysia significant number of children don’t attend primary school, and dropout rate is high, especially among rural children. While the country has a lot to do to improve access and quality of primary and secondary education, when it comes to higher education Malaysia has become regional center in south-east Asia, by developing cooperation with foreign universities, opening new colleges and attracting young people from all over the world to study in Malaysia.
Percentage of students who report being happy at school 92.2
Colombia is fifth country on our list 10 countries that have the happiest students in the world. This comes as a surprise given the serious violation of children rights in the country. Continuous armed conflicts between the government and guerrilla groups have left millions displaced, including great number of children who don’t have access to education. Moreover, Colombia is notorious for recruitment of child soldiers, despite the law prohibiting the use of children under age 18 in the National Army. However, it seems that Colombians know how to preserve optimism since the country ranked third on Happy Planet Index, which also might explain its place on this list.
Countries with Highest Wealth Inequality 10 Countries that have the Happiest Students in the World
Percentage of students who report being happy at school 93.5
While Thailand’s educational system faces many challenges, including poor performance on standardized tests (for instance, it ranked among lowest on PISA test), the country has made tremendous improvements by increasing the enrolment rate for primary school age children by almost 10 percents and the enrolment rate for secondary school age children by 17 percents.
thailand road 10 Countries that have the Happiest Students in the World
Percentage of students who report being happy at school 93.6
Like Thailand, Peru has increased enrollment rate for primary and secondary school. However, almost third of the children aged between 5 and 17 work, which might mean that some children who are enrolled at school don’t actually attend classes. The other similarity between Peru and Thailand are low results on standardized tests. Peru holds the last place on PISA ranking, with lowest scores in all three areas: mathematics, reading and science.
Cheapest Countries to Live in South America 10 Countries that have the Happiest Students in the World
Percentage of students who report being happy at school 94
According to Unicef, one of the poorest countries in Europe Albania has made important improvements in regards to primary education enrollment and gender equality in recent years. Unlike other countries, in Albania children from rural areas have higher enrollment, attendance, and competition rates during primary school than their peers from urban areas. However, urban children have much better access to secondary education – attendance rate among students from urban areas is 50 percent higher than attendance rate among rural children.
Tirana, Albania 10 Countries that have the Happiest Students in the World
Percentage of students who report being happy at school 95.7
Indonesia is the first country on our list 10 Countries that have the Happiest Students in the World. However, young Indonesians had extremely poor results in mathematics, reading and science, and Indonesia ranked as 64th of 65 countries on PISA test. The reason behind the poor results is slow reform of education system, which, according to some, forces children to memorize facts instead of understanding them.
AsiaTravel/Shutterstock.com 10 Countries that have the Happiest Students in the World
I never take anything seriously, don't ask me any serious question。Life is too short, play more! Oscar Wilde: “What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”