Boy, did we discover something shocking.
But before we share this staggering statistic with you, might we suggest you take a seat, make yourself comfortable. Perhaps put on a soothing cuppa.
Because you’re going to need it.
Okay, here goes…
According to our After The ATAR III research, half of young people only go to school because they have to (48%), while half go to school because they want to (52%).
Okay fine, this might not have been quite as shocking as we let on but it is pretty concerning that one in two young Aussies only show up to class because we’re forcing them to.
So what can we do to motivate our kids?
American researchers Tim Kasser, Peter Schmuck and Richard Ryan, suggest we look at the two types of motivations that drive people; intrinsic and extrinsic.
Intrinsic motivations – like passion, persistence and altruism – they say are inherently rewarding to pursue because they’re more likely to satisfy innate psychological needs for autonomy, competence and growth.
By comparison, extrinsic motivations like fame, money and glory are focused on obtaining material rewards and the positive evaluations of others.
In a nutshell, intrinsic motivation comes from within, while extrinsic motivation comes from external factors. When you are intrinsically motivated you do something because you enjoy it and get personal satisfaction from doing it. When you are extrinsically motivated, you do something in order to gain an external reward, or alternatively, to avoid a punishment.
Their research finds that people who are motivated by intrinsic goals become significantly happier and are less inclined to feel depressed and anxious with the work they do. On the flip side, those who are motivated by extrinsic goals don’t experience any increase in long-lasting day-to-day happiness.
So are young Australians more motivated by intrinsic or extrinsic goals?
When we asked what motivates them to succeed, 3 out of 4 Gen Zs said passion was their main driver, followed by respect (51%) and money (47%). Status ranked at just 17%, followed by glory (11%) and fame (7%).
So you can see here, it’s a bit of a mix. The intrinsic goal of passion is the top motivator, big tick, but an extrinsic motivator like money is still important for roughly half of young people. While wanting decent pay is of course totally understandable, it shouldn’t be the main thing driving someone if they want to find true contentment.
So how does this play out in schooling?
Put simply, a student should choose their subjects based on what they’re genuinely interested in and passionate about, not what they think will make them look good to others, what will make mum and dad happy or what will make them rich and famous down the track.
When you focus on the former you are far more likely to find success, and with that the material gains of money, status and maybe even fame will come as a byproduct of being good at what you do.
An 18-year-old female from Victoria confirmed this to us.
“Schooling… should focus on the intrinsic reward of a love of learning and passion for an area, and not the end result,” she said.
“The competitive aspect of schooling helped me to get good marks, but I was only ever happy if I was near the top of the class, which is destructive and futile in the scheme of learning and love of work.”
A 19-year-old male from the ACT told us of a similar situation he faced at school.
“I think highschool was good in the way it gave me a taste of the things I am doing in uni academically speaking, thus it gave me an opportunity to allow my own curiosity to find out what was good for me,” he said.
“However I think the pressure that was put on me was in some ways equally discouraging as the pressure to succeed in grades and other extrinsic motivations undermined my inner passion and curiosity equally so.
“So in short it helped me find my passion but it didn’t do a great job of helping me grow that passion, rather it deteriorated it through stress and anxiety. But now that I am uni I am rekindling my passions that I discovered in my early school days and life is good again!”
So mum and dad, or whoever’s reading this, when it comes time to choose your child’s senior school subjects, or what course they do after school, remember to bring it back to something really simple – what do they enjoy learning?
While it’s improbable for everyone to love all of the subjects they do, the more you do genuinely enjoy the more likely you are going to go to school because you want to rather than because you have to.
And that’s the secret to not hating school.