They are constantly told that anything is possible – that the world is their oyster if they just make the right choices. And most young people thrive and successfully navigate those endless opportunities. But a growing number of them are battling stress, pressure and loneliness, and the lives of far too many young people are stalling from social stagnation.
Through a collaborative project aimed at Danish ‘efterskoler’ (independent residential schools for 14 to 18-year-old students), The Mary Foundation, Just Human, the Danish Efterskole Association and the Tuborg Foundation want to combine existing knowledge about young people’s social well-being with their own suggestions on what is needed to create a generation of young people who find support and strength among one another.
The project includes a series of activities and exercises designed to, among other things, get young people to think about how they create and keep the social relationships they need.
“We know from various studies that young people are struggling to withstand the pressures they are experiencing. And yet we know very little about what is needed to reverse this negative trend. We believe that young people’s social lives and relationships can be a significant protective factor, which is why we would like to work with young people to find ways to strengthen their relationships and social communities,” said Helle Østergaard, Director of The Mary Foundation.
Another important issue concerns the multitude of misunderstandings that lead many adolescents to believe that all their peers have a lot more fun and feel a lot better about themselves than they do. A reality check of what it’s like to be young combined with an exploration of what is needed to have the courage to be yourself and feel good enough as you are also forms a central theme in the project.
Other themes may also be explored as the project develops:
“During the last school year, we tested the first version of the material by inviting both students and teachers to evaluate it through quantitative and qualitative surveys. This gave us a huge amount of useful input, which we have now incorporated. This year, we are taking the next step of delivering actual workshops, during which we will get the students’ opinions about what is needed to help further a socially robust young generation. This will be an exciting process,” said Ida Enghave, Director of Just Human.
Danish efterskoler educate a broad and representative section of the country’s youth, and over 30,000 young people started at one of these schools this year. The fact that these schools have been chosen as the framework for this development work is therefore no coincidence.
“We meet all types of young people at our efterskoler and we also see the increasing social uncertainly and vulnerability. The schools are already keenly aware of how important the students’ social relationships are for their well-being, and we are hoping that the new project will enable us to meet the requirement for a thoroughly tested tool that focuses our efforts on strengthening the social fabric in the schools,” said Torben Vind Rasmussen, Chair of the Danish Efterskole Association.
The goal of the project is to arrive at a series of materials that are in sync with school life, are meaningful to the students and teachers, and strengthen their social well-being and prospects for contributing to a socially robust young generation – individually and together. If it lives up to expectations, the project will be offered to all Danish efterskoler in the 2021/2022 academic year.
Knowledge sharing is a high priority for the project and both lessons learned and interventions will be shared with other interested parties. We have therefore also already anticipated that the project, or certain aspects of the project, could potentially be offered to the senior years in secondary school or tertiary institutions, for example.
- Academic year 2019/2020: The project is developed, co-created and tested with students and teachers at three selected Danish efterskoler.
- Academic year 2020/2021: The project is piloted and evaluated at 20–30 efterskoler throughout Denmark.
- Academic year 2021/2022: The project is expanded to include as many efterskoler as possible. Results and knowledge are communicated and, if possible, the materials are made available to new target groups, such as the senior years in secondary school and tertiary institutions.
Efterskoler in Denmark
There are 240 efterskoler in Denmark.
This year, 30,069 young people started at one of these schools. This is the highest number to date. 70% of the students attend Year 10 and 30% attend Year 8 or 9.