How can we help young people fulfil their potential?
What freedoms do I enjoy as a person? How do I recognize my potential? How can I develop fully? Can I even develop at all?
Power, passion, and talent are things that lie within each of us. It’s just that some people need a little longer to recognise their strengths. And they need support to do so.
When Elizabeth, 30, read studies that showed that, on average, only 50 percent of high school students are able to transition into further education or training and 30 percent of all trainees drop out of their apprenticeship, she knew something had to be done. “There are so many young people who have no idea how great they are, and have no idea who they want to become during their lives!”
Elisabeth lives in Munich and is an educational entrepreneur. She founded ROCK YOUR LIFE!, a mentoring program with 43 locations in Germany and Switzerland. Elisabeth and her staff provide mentors – young students – for students from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as those with disadvantaged family backgrounds, and help them on their quest to discover their own potential. Ultimately, Elisabeth is committed to this because she wants a fair education system. A system in which everyone finds their place and is given the time they need to identify their own career aspirations.
The fact that such a system doesn’t actually exist yet and that young people in German schools often receive little insight into professional life and life after school in general was further evidenced by a Tweet from a 17-year-old student earlier this year: “I am almost eighteen and I don’t know anything about taxes, rent, or insurance. But I can write a paper analyzing a poem. In four languages.”
Of course, taxes and rent have little to do with one’s career choice, and no one likes analyzing poems, but behind this Tweet lay something else – something Elisabeth has also lamented. Namely that students in Germany learn very little about themselves, their talents, and life in the real world into which they are pushed, often unwillingly, when they complete their final high school exams at the very latest.
As trite and dreamy as it sounds, children represent a country’s future. We saw many responses from many young people – it seems that this is not the first time they have considered this issue. Mia, 14, writes, rather maturely: “By investing money in the educational system, creating better learning atmospheres, motivating children, scrutinizing teachers (!).” And Tony, also only 14, writes: “More individuality in school curricula for students who are especially interested in a specific subject.”
It is primarily this lack of diversity that is lamented by participants in the #Deutschland25 discussion in addition to the girl on Twitter:
“By integrating a lot more multimedia into teaching (videos, keynotes), making technology more accessible.” Leo
“Provide more vocational school subjects in place of other information. For example, hardly anyone is interested in rocks!” (Denis, 17)
Innovation, or daring to try something new, is one of the loudest requests heard from Generation25. For example:
"Willingness to take risks must be supported! Trying new things, even if the outcome is uncertain.” (Johannes, 21)
"Germany is famous for ‘innovation.' It’s high time that this is reflected in our school system.” (Ana, 27)
Of course, changing an entire educational system is a mad undertaking and nothing can happen overnight. The same is true for integrating technology and modern media into daily school life. Although the latter must be done in the near future. But we can start now by getting teachers and caregivers of young people to realise that everyone was young once, and everyone has had to ask themselves: Who do I want to be?