Ask an average group of 10- to 12-year-olds in the United States what they want to be when they grow up, and more than one in four will say famous athlete or singer/actor. Pose the same question to their counterparts in the developing world and professions requiring a college education, like teaching and medicine, top the list.
This finding is part of the second annual Small Voices, Big Dreams survey, which polled close to 5,000 children ages 10 to 12 in 44 countries throughout Africa, Asia and the Americas – from Afghanistan to Zambia.
“Children who grow up in poverty recognize more than anyone the power that education has to break the cycle,” said Anne Lynam Goddard, president and CEO of ChildFund International, the U.S. member of ChildFund Alliance, which commissioned the survey. “Children in the poorest countries are placing their hopes and dreams on their ability to learn, and they want to use their education to improve their communities.”
Compiled by Ipsos Observer, the survey found that when asked how they would improve the lives of children in their country, almost half of the children in developing nations said they would improve their nation’s schools. This response was four times higher than “provide more food,” which placed second at 11 percent, followed by “improve healthcare” at 9 percent.
Reflecting the dangers of the world around them, 83 percent of children in developing nations said they felt safest at home or with their parents or family. Children’s biggest health-related concern is getting sick or contracting a disease, which was cited by 23 percent of respondents in developing countries.
Despite finding a stark contrast in professional aspirations, the survey uncovered an inherent similarity among the world’s children. Given the choice to do anything they wanted for a day, 34 percent of children in the developing world would choose to play, and 35 percent of children in developed nations would do the same.
“At the end of day, children are children no matter where they live,” Goddard said. “This survey gives us a powerful glimpse into the opinions of children around the world and will help shape our priorities and programs while giving a voice to those most often overlooked.”