The Importance of School from an International Perspective: What Do Children in General and Children in Vulnerable Situations Say?
To what extent does school experience affect the subjective wellbeing of children in different countries and contexts? What relationship can be established with children in care at school? In the framework of the Children’s Worlds Project, a representative sample of children from 18 countries (N = 21,508) provided opinions and evaluations regarding different domains of their lives, including school. Results showed that children (aged 12) who reported liking to attend school, feeling safety and not bullied, being satisfied with their school experience, marks, and relationships with classmates and treated fairly by teachers; scored significantly higher in subjective well-being (on the PWI scale) than children who evaluated these aspects of school life less positively. This pattern was clearly repeated in all 18 countries. On examining in greater depth whether they liked going to school, results showed that children from countries with high economies answered less positively than children from low-income and upper-middle economies, opening up the debate on what school actually means for children in different social contexts. A specific context analysed was that of children in care. A comparison between the general child population and the children in care in Spain (Catalonia) revealed, on the one hand, that children in care liked going to school more than the general child population. On the other hand, the impact of aspects of school life on subjective wellbeing was more notable in children in care, and differences between maximum and minimum scores were more marked. This would suggest that school is a highly sensitive area of these children’s lives and could be a great compensating factor or, conversely, a risk factor, with implications for policy-making and professional practices. The results of this study indicated that school (or what occurs in the school environment) gains greater importance in the lives of children in more vulnerable situations.
KeywordsChildren Subjective well-being International approach Children in care
Children’s Worlds Project (www.isciweb.org) and the Generalitat de Catalunya (DGAIA).
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