A new British Council survey of school children across the Commonwealth has found that UK children are falling behind their peers around the world in a modern understanding and appreciation of the Commonwealth.
With the Commonwealth Games beginning tomorrow in Glasgow, just over half (57%) of UK 7-14 year olds surveyed in June said they knew what the Commonwealth was, compared to more than three quarters of (78%) school children in other Commonwealth countries.
When asked what the Commonwealth meant to them, the most common response (33%) was ‘Former British Empire’. In contrast, for non-UK Commonwealth children, ‘Shared Language, Culture and History’ was the most popular answer (24%).
93 per cent of non-UK Commonwealth children surveyed said they were proud to be a member of the Commonwealth, whereas only 61 per cent of UK children felt the same way. Less than half (45%) of UK children said they would be watching the Commonwealth Games, compared to 82 per cent of children from other Commonwealth countries.
Julia Amour, British Council UK Regional Director, said “A third of the world’s population live in Commonwealth countries, and it’s clear that many of the Commonwealth’s next generation feel that it still plays an important role in forging cultural understanding and building trust between people around the world. However, it’s alarming that twice as many children in the UK compared to the rest of the Commonwealth see the network as the former British Empire, considering they were born in a different century to the Empire. We need our children to see the world as it is, not just as it was”.
The survey was conducted by the British Council, which has been working in partnership with the BBC and the Commonwealth Secretariat to deliver an international schools project ‘Commonwealth Class’ in the run up to the Games, designed to use the action in Glasgow to connect young people around the Commonwealth and to inspire a greater understanding of Commonwealth values. Over 1100 school children from 19 of the Commonwealth 53 countries took the online survey.
Twice as many respondents from around the Commonwealth said that learning about the Commonwealth had improved their understanding of global issues – 70 per cent, compared to just 32 per cent in the UK.
Julia Amour added: “It is essential for the UK’s future global competitiveness that our young people are highly internationally aware and willing to engage with other cultures – this survey suggests our school children are lagging behind the rest of the world in fostering an international outlook. The Commonwealth Games has a vital role to play in inspiring young people not just to embrace sport, but also embrace the world. The UK has to seize the opportunity over the next two weeks and ensure there is a strong social, as well as sporting legacy from Glasgow.”
From a sporting perspective, both children from the UK and the rest of the Commonwealth were very positive about the inclusion of disabled athletes within the Games. Almost two thirds (64%) of UK respondents, and four fifths (79%) of Commonwealth respondents felt that other sporting events should follow the Commonwealth Games’ example.