Recently I conducted a survey among fellow students concerning students’ dreams and their plans for the future.
One hundred students aged 13-15 were asked two questions: “What would you like to be when you grow up?” and “In a world without the need of money, what job would you choose?”.
Seventy per cent of all respondents chose to change their answer when asked the latter question.
The head of department of sustainable development in the primary sector, Marilyn Cassar Cordina, says that “this data is very problematic as it shows us that from a very young age, students are already forgetting about their dreams and prioritising money”.
Ms Cassar Cordina points out that one can simply look at the current generation of workers. Many middle-aged workers do not enjoy their current field of work and the people who do, are very much in the minority. She says that although workers may contemplate to change their job, few actually take the initiative.
There is no doubt that money plays an important part in society, therefore, certain jobs are deemed more acceptable and successful than others.
Jobs like those of a lawyer, doctor and accountant are high-paying professions, yet can be categorically mainstream and somewhat trite. However, they are very esteemed in society and anyone who aspires to take up such a profession usually receives positive reactions, whereas those who aspire to other jobs, for example, acting or becoming a musician usually receive negative feedback.
Ms Cassar Cordina says that although the role of doctors, lawyers and accountants is very important in our community, other less sought-out jobs like teachers and psychologists are just as important.
She also envisages a few problems: the first being that the likelihood that all aspiring doctors, accountants and lawyers will have a successful career is highly improbable. Yet, if they hypothetically all succeed, a substantial portion of society will be unhappy and would likely suffer from mental health problems, such as depression, in future as job discontentment is a leading cause of middle-aged mental problems (Simard et al., 2022).
This predicament ties in with the sustainable development goals, set by the United Nations, which greatly concern the mental welfare of citizens.
The head of department says that if we want to reach our goals, we must make drastic changes in the way we portray certain jobs and how we assist children in choosing their career path.
She adds that the rise of materialism in society is greatly affecting students’ decisions to place monetary values above their dreams. She also points out that children are not getting enough experiences which challenge their 21st-century skills like critical thinking, communication and collaboration.
Besides, when young children ask ‘banal’ questions, some parents tend to brush them off and ignore them. This is an ideal time to give young children the opportunity to discuss and debate, so they can start to form opinions and dreams, she says.
Although this problem may never be solved completely, Ms Cassar Cordina has some suggestions to improve the situation: parents should discuss various topics with their children and answer any question they have, while teachers and the school system should focus on teaching students about the future and decision-making from a very young age.
Ms Cassar Cordina says that our citizens’ well-being is vital, which is why this problem must be handled as quickly as possible. Children need to be taught to give importance to their dreams and to put them above all else.
Owen Polidano wrote this article for the Young Reporters for the Environment (YRE), a programme designed specifically for secondary and post-secondary students. Every year, workshops on environmental reporting are organised and students submit articles, photos and/or videos to take part in a competition. Local winners are announced by mid-May and international winners on June 30. More information can be found on https://www.yremalta.org or https//www.yre.global/.
Owen Polidano’s original article has been slightly edited. For more Child-related articles, click here.