Report: 80% of students stronger from pandemic

A new Pearson survey of students and parents in four countries underscores the resilience and compassion of young learners.
By: | June 1, 2021
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College and K-12 students have showed incredible resolve as they’ve learned and gained new academic skills and coping strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report released from education media company Pearson.

In a recent survey of 2,000 college students and 4,000 parents of learners ages 11-17 across four countries – the United States, Brazil, China and the UK – the majority of children and young adults have been resilient and adaptable to changes occurring in education while being empathetic to the struggles of others.

In fact, 80% of college students believe the pandemic has made them stronger, and more than half say that young people overall will be able to bounce back from the negatives of the past 12-plus months. Parents of younger students agree, with 70% feeling confident that their children will rebound from this challenging moment in time.

“We know that the pandemic has been difficult for many. While learning looked different for most of us over the past year, it continued to happen every day, formally and informally, virtually and in-person, with friends, family, and neighbors,” said Mickey Revenaugh, co-founder, Pearson Connections Academy. “People of all ages continued to look for ways to fulfill their natural curiosity – trying out new hobbies and acquiring new skills that will help them throughout their lives.”

One of the unique byproducts of the shutdowns and the upheaval to remote learning across K-12 and higher education is that students have been on the front lines with their peers in facing those hardships. More than 80% of parents in the 2021 Global Learner Survey: How a pandemic is forging a stronger generation of young people note their children are more cognizant of the plight of others. Two-thirds of college students say they have become more aware of social issues, including healthcare needs as well as racial equity. Close to 90% of those polled revealed that internet access “is a basic human right that governments should be doing more to provide.”

But as myriad studies have highlighted, there are scars from the past year, including ones that existed before the pandemic. From the survey, more than 60% of parents and nearly 70% of college students admit the pandemic has increased stress, anxiety and depression. And there is a keen awareness among those polled of the importance of mental health care.

Still, the vast majority of college students (70%) believe the difficulties of 2020-21 have made them more flexible, more self-motivated and more emotionally resilient. Likewise, parents recognize positive outcomes in their children, saying “their kids have grown or changed for the better.” Those positive outcomes stretch beyond their states of minds; they’ve also been able to increase learning and acquire new skills, particularly around technology.

In addition, more than three-quarters of college students and the parents of those children say they’ve picked up new hobbies such as cooking or gaming.

What does the future look like?

Many parents note their kids’ newfound interests in science and healthcare. And parents are changing, as well. Almost all say they will continue to assist their children in their studies, something that was not happening as frequently before the pandemic.

College students, meanwhile, have been inspired by the everyday stories of triumph and the outpouring of assistance to those in need. More than 50% are now considering a change in career path, according to study authors, with 45% learning toward a healthcare or science field. More than 50% also say they’d like to own their own business.

Despite the positivity expressed by parents and college students in the survey, it is important to note that children and young adults have been deeply impacted over the past year. One survey done by BestColleges.com showed that 95% of college students, for example, have been negatively affected in some way by COVID-19. Nearly half of them expressed that personal struggles have affected their ability to learn.

Although the reopenings of campuses offer promise of a return to “normal”, some students may struggle to get reacclimated to learning or in-person environments or may still be coping with affects from the pandemic – such as the financial impact on their families, their own mental health challenges or the pressure to perform at high levels. It is important to continue to provide the necessary supports for students and families, to promote the services being offered on campuses and to foster judgment-free environments.