Australian kids living in fantasy world

A land where yoghurt grows on trees and animals produce cotton socks — sounds like a great premise for a creative writing piece, doesn’t it?  Alarmingly, this isn’t fiction; according to many Australian kids, it’s fact.

A study, conducted by the Australian Council of Educational Research (ACER), was reported recently in the article, Kids think yoghurt comes from plants, survey finds. Of the 300 students surveyed, the study found:

- three-quarters of Year 6 students thought cotton socks came from animals;

 - just under half of Year 6 students did not know that bread, cheese and bananas all came from farms;

- a quarter of Year 6 students thought yoghurt was a plant product;

- only about a quarter of Year 10 students knew that salmon and eels were farmed animals.

In response to these findings, president of the National Farmers Federation, Jock Laurie, expressed his concern: “It seems incredulous that children are not taught more about where these vital products come from, or what goes into growing them.”

While the statistics are certainly alarming, just who should be held accountable for them? As a psychologist and educator, I believe these lessons are the shared responsibility of both schools and parents.

First and foremost, parents must recognise the importance of engaging in round table discussion with their children during meal times. Not only are such conversations a great way to practice social skills, they are also invaluable opportunities for children to broaden their knowledge base.

Parents should also be regulating the amount of time their children spend on computers. The survey’s findings suggest that, despite all it promises, the Internet is isolating children from the world around them. At Edworks, we far too frequently see kids in grades 5 and 6 who have little concept of where Sydney is in relation to Melbourne, what states are where, and what our capital cities are. The attitude that kids can just ‘Google’ answers is a dangerous one to adopt, too. Young children need a broad general knowledge in order to make informed decisions. Such lack of awareness is cause for great concern when we consider that these children will soon be moving into adolescence and adulthood.

Finally, unless schools and parents are proactive in working to remedy this predicament, the sort of ignorance the ACER survey has identified in our children will have significant environmental affects down the track. Consider, with the world’s population growing at such a rapid rate, a generation of adults with little concern for the environment or our world food source.

So, parents, rather than simply asking your kids how school was, or what homework they have, set small challenges for them to get them engaged with their surroundings. And there’s no better time to impart your wisdom than when sharing a meal at the dinner table … you can even discuss the origins of your food!


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