The mental health of young people is not good, especially girls in high school. School pressure is one reason for this. Now the question arises: is the current education system asking too many young people? Two professors share their insight.
Last week, researchers from the Health Behavior for School-Age Children (HBSC) organization concluded in their report that young people’s mental health is not doing well. Young girls in high school in particular have emotional problems. This increased from 28 to 43 percent between 2017 and 2021. The percentage who are under pressure from schoolwork has also grown exponentially. “In the past 20 years, this percentage has tripled,” the researchers said.
VWO’s ‘luckiest’ girls in their youth
It wasn’t long before a disturbing letter was received from 847 young men. This was presented to MPs about Prinsjesdag youth. Their message about the current education system? Politicians and policy makers should abandon thinking about so-called higher and primary education and focus less on achievements and numbers. Education must also be more in tune with each pupil and his development.
Martijn Meeter is Professor of Educational Sciences at VU University in Amsterdam. Although he is somewhat surprised by this “sharp development,” he says it can be explained. “The better-educated pupils are the most miserable. For example, we know that girls do better than boys and that pre-university students do better than other levels. And imagine what? Girls in pre-university education are the luckiest.”
Dutch youth have been fine with the Six Culture for a long time
According to Mitter, the younger generation is increasingly aware that this is a “rat race”. “If you lead the way, you will feel more nervous than if you ran somewhere in the middle. It seems that the early adopters are the most nervous. For example, managers in companies or students at elite universities also feel these feelings.”
Mitter explains that the education system has not changed in the past ten years. “The whole story around him has changed.” Because the professor stresses that the Dutch youth were happy and not stressed compared to other countries. “We’ve always had a culture of six and six in the Netherlands.” As far as the Miter is concerned, we adopt a foreign mindset in which the loud personalities are important. Something, he says, is not at all necessary in the Dutch education system. “Six-six culture is sufficient in our school system.”
No homework and grades
The professor has his ideas for comforting the younger generation at school. “We can radically stop grades and choose pass or fail. This is already the case in some other countries. Student performance does not seem to be affected.” But eliminating homework can also provide opportunities, according to Mitter. “Homework is not necessary per se. If the kids are really ready after a day of school, it also saves a lot of stress.”
Young people are weak
Roy Oten is Professor of Developmental Psychology at Radboud University who specializes in risky behavior in young adults. The search results do not surprise him. “The Dutch youth are under a lot of pressure, and that’s been going on for some time, but it doesn’t seem to be slowing down.” The development that, according to him, arises because we as human beings place increasing demands on ourselves and our children and want to make life as perfect as possible. “Young perfectionists or young adults who compare themselves frequently to others are especially at risk. Social media and the longing for a perfect life certainly play a role in this.”
However, according to Otten, a weak generation is developing. “Young people are at risk of burnout, anxiety, depression and sometimes long held back from a young age. This is not the way childhood or student days should be. When you are young, you do not have to make the highest demands and risk passing yourself.”
It’s not just about the school system
Older generations sometimes criticize that young people are no longer accustomed to anything. Jort Kelder recently made a “joke” about suicide in his podcast. Kielder thought some of the millennials’ suicidal thinking was ridiculous: “Maybe they’d better put a stop to it. If you don’t pass the exam, tell me oh my god.” According to Otten, the younger generation is not weaker than the previous generation. “very easy. It is not only about the school system, but also about the shell around it and our entire society. The world is changing and it cannot be compared to past years. Young people are weak. They evolve and struggles accompany this. You need support with that, it was no different in the past. But the world has changed.”
Otten emphasizes the fact that the definition of “good” is different for every young person. “Let’s watch for individual differences, realize those differences exist, and be happy about that.” Finally, he stated that he does not consider phenomena such as graduating with distinction to contribute to a healthier environment. “Now we also have to stress at the university when hiring doctoral students that it is not about the number of papers in a thesis. To prevent people from going down that path.”
Six young men explain the meaning of pressure to perform: ‘I only give up when I collapse’
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