Survey of World’s Children Finds School a Priority Yet Obstacles to Education Persist

Seventh annual ChildFund Alliance global survey of 6,000 children
reveals widespread concerns over access to and safety in schools

RICHMOND, Va.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Punctuating a political season of wall-to-wall polling, a new survey of
thousands of rarely heard voices too young to vote may be the most
compelling poll of all. A global survey of more than 6,000 children aged
10 to 12 in 41 countries across Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas
finds almost universal validation among the world’s students themselves
for the importance of education, and yet one in three children say their
school is not always safe and another one third report having to miss
school in order to go to work.

The findings, released less than a week before the yearly observance of
the U.N.’s Universal Children’s Day (Nov. 20), are part of the seventh
annual Small Voices, Big Dreams survey conducted by the ChildFund
Alliance, a worldwide network of 11 international development
organizations providing assistance to more than 15 million children and
their families in 58 countries.

“Children understand all too well that their path to better tomorrows
travels through the classroom, and yet they also understand that adults
are failing them in their capacity to secure a basic education,” said
Anne Lynam Goddard, president and CEO of ChildFund International, the
U.S.-based partner in the Alliance. “The results of this year’s Small
survey amplify the real concerns that children have over
access to and safety in their schools even as they convey how much they
love learning. As they do so often and with such clarity, children are
telling us what the problem is, and it’s up to adults to enact

When asked if education was important to them, a nearly unanimous 98
percent of children answered in the affirmative. As to why, almost
two-thirds (64%) of children in developed countries cited school’s
importance in securing a good job, a response that was shared by two in
five children (40%) in developing countries. Students in Sweden (97%)
and Cambodia (92%) overwhelmingly provided that answer.

Were they president of their country, more than half (56%) of children
in developing countries said they would build and renovate schools to
improve the learning environment, while 43 percent of children in
developed countries would modernize curriculums. The children surveyed
in Cambodia (88%), Myanmar (79%) and Burkina Faso (79%) were most likely
to cite building/renovating schools.

Thirty-two percent of students in developing countries and 29 percent of
students in developed countries said their schools were not always safe.
Twenty percent of students in the African nation of Burkina Faso said
their schools were “never safe,” a sentiment shared by 6 percent of
American students. Almost all (95%) students in Paraguay said their
schools were “always safe.”

Almost one-third (31%) of children in developing countries said they
have had to miss school due to family work obligations. That is the case
for just 8 percent of children in developed nations. [According to
UNICEF, an estimated 59 million children that should be in school are
not (2013), and being taken out of school to go to work to help support
the family is among the reasons.] More than nine in 10 (91%) of children
in Afghanistan and 84 percent of those in Timor-Leste said they have
missed school because of having to work. Only 2 percent of students in
Spain and 3 percent of Canadian students have had work disrupt school

To the question “what do you love most about school,” half (51%) of
children in developing countries said “learning new things,” while
almost as many children from developed nations (48%) said “being with
friends.” Nine in 10 (93%) of children in Cambodia cited “learning new
things,” and 73 percent of children from Sweden said “being with

The yearly poll, one of the most comprehensive surveys of children’s
views in the world, is conducted in the field by ChildFund Alliance, a
network of 11 international development organizations whose work reaches
more than 15 million children in 60 countries. The data is compiled and
analyzed by GfK Roper, one of the world’s foremost research

For a copy of the 2016 Summary Data Report as well as other materials
related to the Small Voices, Big Dreams survey, visit


ChildFund International
Angela Ross, 804-756-2700 Ext 3605