Lack of motivation among the young in Spain

Rafael Puyol. Vicepresident. IE Foundation

13 April 2012

Perhaps the only positive consequence of the crisis is a rise in the number of young people going into higher education. The challenge facing educators is how to convince them that it is worth the effort.

The book of Spanish unemployment includes several dark chapters. First, there is the chapter on women, then the over 55s, the foreigners, the long-term unemployed, and above all, there are the young. Since the crisis started the rate of unemployment among the under 25s has multiplied by 2.7, rising from 18% to almost 49%. In other words, we are in a situation in which one in two young people is jobless.

As happened on previous occasions, some young people have tried to get around the complex work situation and the problems that come from being inactive by going to university. After a fall in the number of enrolments between 2000 and 2008, for strictly demographic reasons, the number of students then began to grow until it reached almost 70,000 for the latest intake. Economic instability has warped demographic trends by forcing young people into the system who in normal circumstances would not have thought about doing a university degree. It is possibly the only positive consequence of the crisis. This process, however, has a downside that casts a shadow on the situation. Many young people, from former students to new students, ooze apathy, lack motivation, and exude pessimism. The arguments used to explain to them that they will have a better future are not serving to convince them.

The idea that a better level of education will make it easier to get work and carve a successful career does nothing to reduce their skepticism. We are facing a serious problem of despondency, which is fuel for the fire of those who want to get students onto the street brandishing banners against budget cuts.

Given this situation, educators have a dual mission and a dual commitment: of course our young people should be educated in the best possible way, but we also have to combat their sense of dejection with an indisputable affirmation that the work situation is getting better and that their contribution will play a decisive role in Spain’s future.

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