Chapter 4 : UNICEF Report (Report Card 7)
Contents – © ISBN: 0-909001-61-8
Chapter 1: Setting the Scene
Chapter 2: Where to Start?
Chapter 3: OECD PISA Reports
Chapter 4: UNICEF Report
Chapter 5: Decline of USA
Chapter 6: The UK Experience
Chapter 7: My UK Experience
Chapter 8: People at the coalface
Chapter 9: Stressed out Children
Chapter 10: Finland
Chapter 11: The Interview
Chapter 12: Pointers for the Future
Chapter 13: Music – The Crucial Ingredient
Chapter 14: Conclusion
In 2007, UNICEF published a report (UNICEF Child poverty in perspective – 2007: An overview of child wellbeing in rich countries – A comprehensive assessment of the lives and wellbeing of children and adolescents in the economically advanced nations) known as Report Card 7, on childrens’ wellbeing after carrying out research in twenty-one developed countries of the world.
The comprehensive report covered forty separate indicators relevant to children’s wellbeing. Assessment of education was a crucial element in the Report’s findings as was the educational input and influence into other areas.
As it would appear that New Zealand is following the disastrous example of the UK, we shall concentrate and emphasise the Report’s descriptions of the UK. This will be carried out under separate but appropriate headings.
The Report describes how the UK was last in the survey of 21 nations with the USA just above it. One would have thought that these findings would have some sort of influence on the politicians and administrators in their decision-making but the Report’s findings were ignored.
Therefore, it is necessary to describe these findings to try and persuade New Zealand politicians and administrators not to go down the same road as the UK and USA but the very clear public statements by John Key and the then Minister of education, Anne Tolley indicate that their priority is not the wellbeing of New Zealand children but tragically for them, the fulfilment of a political agenda whatever the cost to the nation’s children.
However, as optimising childrens’ wellbeing and learning is our top priority, it is incumbent on us to bring to the attention of such politicians the road down which they are taking New Zealand education. One can always hope that eventually these writings may have some influence. What is clear is that the politicisation and centralisation of the UK and USA’s education systems is exactly the wrong direction to take if the objective is to optimize children’s wellbeing and learning.
From one perspective what we are describing is the very negation of certain freedoms. If these freedoms are implemented, and we shall describe later, countries in which that is occurring, we find that children succeed. However, for the present we shall examine the UNICEF Report.
In their introduction UNICEF made the following statement, “The true measure of a nation’s standing is how well it attends to its children – their health and safety, their material security, their education and socialization, and their sense of being loved, valued, and included in the families and societies into which they are born.”
Report Card 7 provides a comprehensive assessment of the lives and well-being of children and young people in 21 nations of the industrialized world. Its purpose is to encourage monitoring, to permit comparison, and to stimulate the discussion and development of policies to improve children’s lives.
The report specifically attempts to measure and compare child wellbeing under six different headings or dimensions: material well-being, health and safety, education, peer and family relationships, behaviours and risks, and young people’s own subjective sense of well-being. In all, it draws upon 40 separate indicators relevant to children’s lives and children’s rights (see pages 42 to 45 of the Report).
The UNICEF Report examined the physical and emotional well-being of youngsters in the world’s wealthiest nations. According to per capita GDP, the UK is the fifth world’s wealthiest nation. However, British children are languishing at the bottom of the UNICEF international league table. The UK was last in the survey of 21 nations, which included Europe as well as the USA, Canada and Japan.
British children came last in three of the six categories analysed, finding themselves in the bottom third for two others. In the second most successful category, education, the UK was ranked 17th, way behind the former eastern bloc countries Poland and the Czech Republic. The Netherlands topped the league, followed by Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Spain.
The overall quality of life for children in the USA was judged only narrowly better than in the UK, finishing 20th in the table. The research found that British children regard themselves as less happy, and that they drank more alcohol, took more drugs, and had more underage sex than children overseas.
They suffered the worst poverty and were also more prone to failure at school, experienced violence and bullying than other children and suffered a greater number of unhappy relationships with both their families and peers.
The Report is the first study of childhood wellbeing across industrialised countries. As stated, it analysed 40 separate indicators based on existing data. Among the most depressing findings were that more than a fifth of UK youngsters rated their physical and mental health as poor – the worst among the rich countries surveyed.
Girls reported lower levels of well-being than boys across all the nations surveyed with more than 27 per cent of 15-year-old females expressing dissatisfaction with their health compared to 16 per cent of boys of the same age.
Overall, youngsters in the UK were more likely to feel left out, awkward and lonely, than nearly all their peers in other developed countries, the report said. Italy and Portugal topped the table with the UK, the US and Czech Republic propping up the bottom of the league when the quality of children’s relationships was examined.
Among OECD counties, the UK had the second highest number of children living in single-parent families or with step-parents. Italy, Greece and Poland, traditional Catholic countries, enjoyed the most stable families. The authors said there was a well-established link between family breakdown, educational failure, poor health and reduced life chances. Less than half of Britain’s 11-15-year-olds said they found their peers “kind and helpful.”
In terms of economic well-being, Britain was 18th in the table, with only the USA having more children living in a household where the income was less than 50 per cent of the national median. While the report acknowledged that children today enjoyed unprecedented levels of health and safety and Britain was judged the second safest country behind Sweden in terms of the number of youngsters dying from accidents, the UK once again came in the bottom third of the table for infant mortality and low birth weight.
As far as education is concerned, the UK came last mainly because of its poor record in persuading pupils to stay on in education and training. However, when 15-year-olds’ ability in reading, maths and science was assessed, the UK came ninth.
Categories – in alphabetical order
Education: Regarded by UNICEF as vital to a child’s future life chances, Britain ranked 21st – last, mainly due to its poor record in persuading pupils to stay on in education and training. However, when 15-year-olds’ ability in reading, maths and science was assessed the UK came ninth.
Family and Friends: British children were found to have the worst relationships in the developed world (21st). The UK had the second highest number of children living in single-parent families or with step-parents. Less than two-thirds of British families said they ate together regularly. Britain was also bottom of the industrialised national table when relationships among 11-15-year-olds were examined.
Happiness: British children consider themselves the least content in the wealthy world. More than a fifth of UK youngsters said they rated their physical and mental health as poor – only Latvia, Russia and Lithuania fared worse. Girls reported lower levels of satisfaction than boys. UK youngsters were among the least likely to enjoy school or to rate their happiness levels as above average. Overall, they were the most likely to admit to feeling left out, awkward and lonely.
Health and Safety: Children born in wealthy nations now enjoy unprecedented levels of health and safety. Britain found itself ranked second behind Sweden as the place where children are least likely to die in an accident. However, this good performance was marred by the UK’s relatively high infant mortality and low birth-weight rates. The UK also fared poorly when it came to the percentage of children aged 12 months to 23 months immunised against the major vaccine-preventable disease. It was ranked in the bottom third (17th).
Poverty and Inequality: Despite being the fifth largest economy, Britain was ranked 18th for material wellbeing, beating only Ireland, Hungary and Poland. When it came to the number of children living in households where income was less than 50% of the national median, the UK beat only the USA. British children were also among the most likely to have a jobless parent and in the bottom third for homes with fewer than 10 books (12th).
Sex, Drink and Drugs: The UK easily outstripped all other countries when it came to bad and risky behaviour. British children were more likely to have been drunk or had sex than those of any other country. The UK also had the second highest teenage fertility rate. British teenagers were much more likely to be involved in a fight in the past 12 months than other nationalities and more likely to have been bullied (18th).
Comments – Subjects in alphabetical order
Education: Richard Garner, Education Editor, The Independent, “The United Kingdom is well down the league table for educational well-being – languishing in 17th place out of 21 Western countries surveyed. Its biggest problem is the percentage of students aged 15 to 19 dropping out of education or training. More than 25 per cent of British 15- to 19-year-olds drop out compared with just 5 per cent in Belgium – the best-performing country. UK teenagers have low expectations of education, with more than 30 per cent anticipating a job with low skills.” Richard House, Lecturer in psychotherapy and counselling, “I also think the education system adds to children’s unhappiness, in terms of testing. Children’s love of learning gets compromised which can have a negative effect. Also, in the past 10 to 12 years, the school age has crept down to about four, and in countries higher up this research, children don’t tend to start formal schooling until maybe around five or six.”
Family and Friends: Richard House, Lecturer in psychotherapy and counselling, “In the UK, family life seems to have disintegrated and seems much more fragile than in other countries. All the research coming out of psychoanalysis and sociology concludes that if children don’t live a reasonably stable family life, it can have major negative effects.”
Jonathan Bradshaw, Professor of Social Policy, University of York, “Relationships with family and friends matter a great deal to children and are also important to long-term emotional and psychological development. The UK compares poorly in that area with other countries. That is partly because we have the second highest proportion of single-parent families of the countries examined and the second highest proportion of children living in step-families. Statistics suggest those factors can lead to a greater risk of dropping out of school, of leaving home early, of poorer health, of low skills and of low pay. We have relatively low proportions of children who report eating their main meal with parents several times a week, although we don’t do too badly on parents talking regularly to their children. Most distressingly, we have the lowest proportion reporting that their peers are kind and helpful – less than half say that is the case compared with more than 80 per cent in Switzerland.”
Happiness: Bob Reitemeier, the chief executive of The Children’s Society, “We simply cannot ignore these shocking findings. Unicef’s report is a wake-up call to the fact that, despite being a rich country, the UK is failing children and young people in a number of crucial ways.”
Health and Safety: Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor, The Independent, “The findings demonstrate what visitors to Britain have long recognised – that, as a nation, we neglect our children. On the continent, in the countries bordering the Mediterranean, children are celebrated. In Britain they are tolerated at best, hustled from school to home, out of sight and out of mind. This report shows how much there is still to do.”
Poverty and Inequality: Colette Marshall, the UK director of Save the Children, “It is shameful to see the UK languishing at the bottom of this table. This report shows clearly that despite the UK’s wealth, we are failing to give children the best possible start in life.”
Sex, Drink and Drugs: Martin Barnes, Chief executive of the charity Drugscope, “Looking at the research, the fact that we come so low down in the international league is depressing and alarming. We have seen a big increase in drug use during the past 20 years. Although there have been encouraging signs that it has started to stabilise and fall, this clearly shows there is no room for complacency. Class A drug use among young people is still relatively uncommon but the risk factors do increase in the late teens in this country. And although it is rare, we have come across cases of children aged 11 or 12 who are exposed to such drugs. Another big issue is the impact of parental drug and alcohol use. One factor leading young people to drugs is family and relationships. In terms of effective prevention, the Government last year emphasised family support and relationships in tackling the factors leading to drug abuse.”
What children say about their lifestyle:
“The richer we become as a society, the less mature young people need to be. Too many people expect the good things but don’t want to take responsibility.” Profound words from a teenager brought up in the heart of one of the UK’s most deprived and poverty-stricken communities and who, according to the UN report on children’s standards of living, is typical of a neglected generation.
However, Ciaran McIntyre, 17, from Dumbarton, has been fortunate. He is one of almost 5,000 youngsters aged between 8 and 18 rescued from the streets in the past decade by the Tullochan Trust, which set up youth clubs to tackle problems of personal development, healthy living and employability in one of the poorest areas of the UK.
If Britain is the worst place to be a child, West Dunbartonshire, as one of the three most deprived areas in Scotland, is among the worst of the worst. Vandalism, high unemployment, violent crime, drugs, truancy, drink and poverty are all apparent on the streets of Bonhill, Alexandria and surrounding areas.
“I’m not surprised Holland and Sweden are top of the list because of the opportunities young people get there. In those countries it is a big thing for families to do things together, but it isn’t here. Adults don’t care as much round here as they do in other places. It’s a different culture here,” Ciaran said. “The worst thing about living around here is the Neds [slang for hooligans],” said Ross Lyle, 11.
“They go around spraying paint on walls, smashing things up and fighting all the time. I don’t want to be like that.” Despite the fact that most youngsters in the community have been affected in some way by drink, drugs and violence, many children who don’t know any other lifestyle, readily say they are happy with their home, school and friends. “There is a lot of bullying, but we know we can always tell someone if it becomes a problem,” said Eildh Mcindewar, 11. “A lot of kids who don’t come to the club can’t do that.”
When many of the primary school children go into secondary education, peer pressure takes over and they begin to roam the streets with gangs on the local estates. “Before this club started, everybody would just walk about the streets getting into trouble,” said Lorna Dixon, 15. “Drink and drugs are really easy to get hold of. I don’t know what it’s like in other countries but it is pretty bad here,” said Damian Scott, 15.
Almost all those who stay on the straight and narrow are convinced more needs to be done to encourage youngsters to see there is a future. “It’s horrible but a lot of kids just cut about the streets breaking windows, getting drunk and starting fights,” said Glenn Logan, 14.
“It’s the way kids are brought up. Sometimes their families don’t care where they are or what they are doing. Grown-ups buy them booze just to get them to go away and sometimes the local shops switch off the security cameras and sell it to them to make money. A lot of the Neds drink to feel big. They see it on TV and want to show off to mates” “There are a lot of teenage pregnancies,” says Joanne McFarlane, 15. “I know people at school who have had pregnancy scares. Everybody sees it on TV and thinks it is big to do it.”
UNICEF said that, compared to Holland and Sweden which came out as top places to be a child, most British children feel unloved and unsupported by a society which regards them more as a burden rather than as a valuable investment.
“There is not enough to do for teenagers when they leave school. There are no jobs and no prospects for most people,” said Ciaran McIntyre. “Most people don’t want to live like this but they just can’t see a way out. There needs to be more help to give more people the confidence to get out there and prove to themselves they can make a better life.”
Education can never replace the home nor should it attempt to. With so many children coming from homes that, in one way or another, do not meet the needs of children, problems are going to continue until many adults conclude, hopefully sooner rather than later, that their children need to come first. The effects of breakdown of adult relationships on children can be mitigated if adults seek advice and help when problems first occur.
Tragically, one of the prevailing attitudes is that the grass is greener on the other side. In many cases the adults find later that this is not the case and wished, when it is too late, they had sought professional help. No government can legislate for such situations. However, a government can encourage the institution of marriage with financial inducements and appropriate tax allowances. It is a strange world when it makes more financial sense not to marry because one is worse off than one would be if one remained single.
Recently, a UK Member of Parliament described the following with regard to breakdowns in adult relationships. He said that although 1 in 12 church marriages fail, the figure is 1 in 4 for civil marriages and 1 in 3 for partnerships.
Among OECD counties, the UK had the second highest number of children living in single-parent families or with step-parents. Italy, Greece and Poland, traditional Catholic countries, enjoyed the most stable families.
Next to family life, education can give hope to many children and increase and optimize their wellbeing and learning. Recently, I contributed to one of the “Comments” items (Improving UK Education) in The Daily Telegraph by writing the following self-explanatory note: “A former teacher and university lecturer (teacher training) I left the UK in 1981 to teach at San Diego State University but found the California/USA system equally obsessed with test driven curricula.
Moving to New Zealand I achieved everything I wanted to in less than three years. Before I left the UK, I had tried, for 8 years, to give a presentation to UK administrators without success. Although I was able to do this in California the system was so politically highly centralized the response was more ritualistic politeness than anything else.
In less than two weeks in New Zealand I was able to give a presentation to the Chief Inspector for South Island. I thought that was that. Perhaps what I said made sense for a few days later I was telephoned by said lady who had arranged for me to give a presentation to the top brass in Wellington and briefly meet the minister.
I have no idea whether I had anything to do with it but some months later a Commission was set to examine the pre-tertiary administration system in New Zealand and to make recommendations to Parliament. I submitted a lengthy and detailed report on what I considered changes that were necessary (I assume other people, groups and organizations made similar submissions).
I was delighted that the changes I believed were necessary were included in the Commission’s report to Parliament and duly became law (no testing of young children, teachers given freedom and support, every school a community school, no school districts, schools able to choose which consultants and advisers they wish to obtain information from; music, art and drama as integral part of the curricula, etc., etc.).
Since then I have returned to California and still write to administrators in the UK and USA, of course, without success or any prospect of it. After 38 years I did, at long last, elicit a response from the Ministry of Education but it gave me, as usual, no hope for the children of the UK. The future here in the USA is equally as dismal. In both countries, children, IMHO, are being damaged for life.
There is enough evidence in other countries (Finland, New Zealand, Netherlands and others) to indicate what needs to be implemented but the usual excess of hubris, although quiet equally damaging, will result in people like myself never making a contribution – ah well, such is life J”
Gordon Brown previously stated that his passion is education and that he will listen, “I believe government only works when it is dedicated to serving the people. I will always try to put your concerns and aspirations at the heart of what I do. I will work hard for you.
My passion is education…….To those who feel that the political system doesn’t listen and doesn’t care, to those who somehow feel powerless and have lost faith, to those who feel Westminster is a distant place and politics all too often a spectator sport, I will strive to earn your trust – to earn your trust not just in foreign policy, but in our schools and our hospitals and our public services and to respond to your concerns. I want to be a voice for communities far beyond Westminster, a voice for the parent, a voice for the patient and the public. The best preparation for governing is listening to the British people.” and “to create a better mechanism for people to become more involved within a few weeks”.
He vowed to back “stronger families and stronger communities.” Mr. Brown said he would make policy by listening to ordinary people rather than by reading Whitehall files. We shall see whether this is, as usual, empty rhetoric or whether changes will occur.
It gives me no satisfaction to write the above but it is necessary. At some point administrators in the UK and USA need to examine their own mindsets and realize the policies they are implementing are negating the very freedoms that are necessary to rectify what can only be described as the present horrific situations.
As stated elsewhere, my experience of the last forty years in the UK and USA indicates that the mindsets are so inflexible that changes will not be implemented. The result is that the present damage to children will continue and that the UK and USA, as far as children’s wellbeing is concerned, will remain the worst countries to raise children.
If there is any hope, it is that countries like New Zealand will implement policies that will optimise childrens’ wellbeing and learning.
There is a great deal of information available to clearly indicate that this politicisation and centralisation is exactly the wrong direction to take if the objective is to optimize children’s wellbeing and learning.
It would be uplifting to see the present UK and USA at the top rather than the bottom of such tables but if the present mindsets continue (as they are certain to do) then I will be describing, as I have done for the last thirty years.
Such surveys and reports clearly indicating that the children in both countries are faring very badly when compared with the children from other OECD countries.
If interested, Mollet Learning Academy (MLA) and WideHorizon Education Resources (WER) produces Teaching Packs that are designed to appeal to the heart, head and hands. Original material is the Mollet Learning Academy (MLA) Teaching Packs (written initially for New Zealand teachers). On request from USA teachers, monitoring and assessment procedures were added and renamed WER Teaching Packs to distinguish them from MLA Teaching Packs. All lessons are designed to appeal to the heart, head and hands.
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For overall content of Ancient Civilisations please click
Program Overview Ancient Civilisations
For overall content of Ancient Kush please click Program Overview Kush
For overall content of History of California please click
Overview Teachers Handbook CA
For overall content re improving reading and language skills through history please click Overview Reading History
For overall content re MLA approach to teaching
mathematics please click Overview Teaching Math
For overall content re MLA approach to teaching
fractions please click Fractions Teacher Handbook
For overall content re MLA approach to teaching multiplication tables please click Multiplication Tables Teachers Handbook
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Ancient China P_China
Ancient Egypt P_Egypt
Ancient Greece P_Greece
Ancient India P_India
Ancient Israelites P_Israelites
Ancient Kush P_Kush
Early Humankind/Prehistory P_Prehistory
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The following free sample lessons (sorry limit one at present) are available in this order: Ancient Civilisations (Ancient China, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Ancient India, Ancient Kush, Ancient Israelites, Ancient Rome, Mesopotamia, Prehistory/Early Humankind), Fractions, Multiplication Tables, History of California, See below titles for descriptions.
Ancient China (Lessons 4/5 of Module 2)
Mathematics, Counting Rods and Chinese Abacus
Ancient Egypt (Lesson 3 of Module 3)
Papyrus – how it is made, activities etc
Ancient Greece (Lesson 1 of Module 2)
Story “Parrhasius and Helena”, Guided Reading,
The Court of Law, Simulate an Athenian Court of Law.
Ancient India (Lesson 3 of Module 2)
“Asoka and the Mauryan Empire,” “India’s National Emblem,”
Assessment Rubric for India’s National Emblem,
Ancient Kush (Lesson 2 of Module 2)
Story “Expedition to Jebel Barkal,” “Jebel Barkal: A Poem,”
Guided Reading, Review Exercises
Ancient Israelites (Lesson 2 of Module 1)
Story “Abraham,” Father of a Nation, Guided Reading
Ancient Rome (Lesson 3 of Module 2)
“The people of Rome speak out,” Story “Julius Caesar,”
Crossing the Rubicon, Guided Reading
Mesopotamia (Lesson 4 of Module 3)
Story “Gilgamesh,” “The Death of Enkidu.”
Prehistory/Early Humankind (Lesson 2 of Module 2)
The Crô-Magnons including story “The Lascaux Caves”,
Guided Reading and “The Cave Paintings at Altmira.”
Fractions SubUnit 3.4 Drama: A Tale of Fractions
A free lesson/drama involving students in a drama about the Pied Piper of Hamelin
Multiplication Tables SubUnit 3.7 Ten Times Table: Mr. Pickles
A free lesson, activities, story, game/, patterns,
cooperative learning activities about the ten times table
History of California Lesson 5.6 The Gold Rush: Part 1
A free lesson describing the background of the gold rush and life in the gold fields
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Be the ONE who listens
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1. The MLA approach to education believes in developing the creative and imaginative side of the student in harmony with the intellectual and cognitive. To achieve this, MLA Teaching Packs make stories and drama an integral part of the lessons and involve students through storytelling, art, simulations, drama, craft, discussion and creation of a personal record.
3. In a MLA Teaching Pack you will find teacher guidelines, stories providing an in-depth experience, information sheets presented in an interesting and stimulating format, activity sheets, suggestions for further research, maps with related activities, questions for discussion and assessment, dramas for class/school performance, guidance for the student’s personal record or portfolio, a variety of review exercises and contents designed and structured for authentic assessment
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