What we know about our children after 2021

In 2021, families across the country and around the world endured another year of interrupted schooling, with the attendant challenges of homeschooling, working from home and isolation from support networks of extended family and friends.

For our youngest students, the proportion of their lives spent living in a pandemic is very large, and we do not yet know what lasting effect COVID-normal will have.

2021 brought another year of interrupted schooling with the challenges of homeschooling and homework. Image: Getty Images

Parents and teachers need to remain attentive, attentive, adaptable and responsive to ensure that our young people can thrive in the face of a range of challenges – not just COVID-19 – in a world that has found a new way to get through this unexpected moment in history.

At the end of 2021, we asked three education experts from the Melbourne Graduate School of Education to review the year and what we should do next.

Dr. Annie Gowing is a senior lecturer and head of the study’s well-being in the Master of Education program. Hernan Cuervo is an associate professor and deputy director of the school’s youth research center. Yong Zhao is a professor of educational management, and Jim Watterson is a business professor and dean of the Melbourne Graduate School of Education.


School closures caused by COVID-19 have affected education and well-being for children and young people worldwide, but these effects have not been experienced in the same way by everyone, and a more nuanced analysis invites consideration of age, place, community resources, individual and family circumstances and personal stories.

The pandemic has magnified some inequalities and revealed others that may have been invisible in the past.

Those living in households and communities with elevated economic and social consequences and with pre-existing mental health problems are likely to be more severely affected by the pandemic. Image: Shutterstock

The most affected, including young people with additional learning needs and disabilities, are likely to carry the pandemic well-being for longer than their less affected peers.

When one sees the pandemic as a natural disaster, there will be an impact on social-emotional development for all young people.

Those living in households and communities with elevated economic and social consequences, and those with pre-existing mental health problems, are likely to be more severely affected. After all, there has been an increase in insecurity and anxiety as the predictability, security, and stability of their world have changed.

The broken ties with teachers and peers, especially for those at important transition points such as preschool environments to elementary school and elementary school to high school, have translated into a loss of kinship that will take time to rebuild.

Particular attention should be paid to the youngest students who have had their basic learning in literacy disrupted, along with their social development, especially in forming their student identity.

The duration of these effects will vary, and young people’s ability to be resilient to these challenges will largely depend on the ability of their families, communities and schools to prioritize the restoration of well-being in the short and long term.

Teacher well-being needs to be rebuilt as they have faced the same challenges with additional occupational stress. Image: Getty Images

Schools will need to hold on to the flexibility and adaptability they have discovered over the past two years, as their students will require finely calibrated and differentiated interventions to rebuild their socio-emotional and cognitive well-being.

The well-being of teachers must also be rebuilt, as they have faced the same challenges as the entire population, but with the extra work stress of teaching and supporting their students for extended periods in the online environment.


The COVID-19 pandemic brought new and old insecurities and social and economic risks into sharp relief.

For the past two years, parents and carers in Australia and around the world have tried to work remotely, have their work changed or increased, especially those who are a “necessary worker”, or become unemployed while trying to navigate education. and caring for their children.

Parents and caregivers have certainly been living in the present since the pandemic began. But what about their worries about their children’s future?

The Life Patterns project, which runs through the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, has followed two cohorts of Australians since leaving school, in 1991 and 2006, respectively.

Figure 1. Parents ‘and caregivers’ greatest concerns about their children’s future. Graphics: Included

This year we have examined the youngest cohort, which is currently 33 years old, of which four out of ten are parents in one form or another. In this study, we asked them about the degree of concern they have for their child / children’s future regarding several themes.

Cost of living and environmental issues were the two biggest concerns. Parents ‘and caregivers’ concerns for the future also included their children’s ability to develop friendships, the development of their life values, mental health issues, the political climate, and the cost of education.

These concerns were very similar to the same concerns that these parents had in early 2020.

While some parents appreciated that their children were too young to understand how COVID-19 affected the world, others focused on the cost of living and education or the lack of socialization of their children with their peers.

This father, who lives in a regional city, encapsulated contemporary worries that have an impact beyond the present and into the future:

I am concerned about passivity in relation to climate change, increasing polarization of society on political and cultural discourse, the maintenance (and apparent celebration) of misinformation, the security of the digital world and a general concern about how people treat each other with respect (or lack of same).

Cost of living and environmental issues were the two biggest concerns for surveyed parents. Image: Getty Images

Ultimately, when it comes to their children, parents and caregivers live in the present, but also think about the future. While COVID-19 has shaken them up, some of their ailments and worries are before and will go beyond this pandemic time.


COVID-19 occupied our minds this year, but it is far from the big problem for our children’s future.

To thrive in a world drastically transformed by technology and globalization, children must become independent, critical, entrepreneurial, creative, and collaborative. When jobs are replaced by machines or outsourced, our children have to become job creators instead of job finders.

We need to rethink the purpose of education: it is not to prepare children to be ready for the future because they are the creators of the future. Our job is to help them develop skills and perspectives to develop a better future for all people.

Every child has an uneven profile of abilities, good in some areas and bad in others.

Education should be a strength-based and passion-driven process to help each child develop their strengths and find their passions. Education should also help each student learn to use their unique talents and passions to serve others and the world.

Ultimately, learning should be personalized by students. Image: Getty Images

To create such an education is to give children more freedom to exercise their right to self-determination and to lead their own education.

We need to pay much more attention to children’s growth than the content of the curriculum. We should deliver a broad and flexible curriculum, use product-oriented pedagogy and engage students in real-life learning on a global scale.

Ultimately, learning should be personalized by students.

For professional support, a good place to start is your GP and / or a mental health professional. Discuss any difficulties with school work with teachers to derive a changed curriculum and ensure that you know where you can access crisis support if necessary.

Livline – 13 11 14; Child helpline – 1800 55 1800

Additional resources for wellness include: Reach out – a mental health service for young people and parents with apps and links to other sites; Butterfly and Eating disorders Victoria – support for eating disorders; Beyond Blue – information and support for mental health; Headspace – early intervention in mental health for 12-25-year-olds; The brave program – an online program for the prevention and treatment of childhood and adolescent anxiety.

Banner: Getty Images

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