10K Indian Voices, the survey-based report which examines the opinions of the so-called Generation Z demographic, asked students about topics ranging from the impact of the pandemic to their professional aspirations.
Also included in the survey were their opinions on social activism, social media and sustainability.
Sannam S4’s founder and CEO Adrian Mutton encouraged institutions to “heed the paradigm shift” that the survey laid out.
“Representing around one fifth of the entire world’s youth population, how Indian students make decisions about their education will profoundly dictate future global mobility,” Mutton said.
Key findings included students having “developed a keen awareness to global challenges”, which overwhelmingly includes the topic of sustainability.
A massive 93% of the survey’s 9,963 respondents said sustainability was on their mind “daily” – Quality Education, Zero Hunger and No Poverty were seen as the most important SDGs for the Gen Z students.
“Climate change is more on everyone’s radar now than ever, and India experiences that daily with soaring summers, unseasonal rains, landslides and floods,” Lakshmi Iyer, Sannam S4 executive director of Education, told The PIE News.
“The impact of not meeting the SDGs is acutely felt in countries like India. Universities have local and global impact… they shape minds and they need to take that mission seriously so that they equip the students to problem solve for the greater good.”
Also found to be a priority for respondents was “making a difference in the world”, along with a passion for social causes was a factor for some.
“Indian Gen Z students want to pursue a career of choice and want to make a difference to the world”
Some 39% of students cited career growth as the most pressing issue, while mental health and education, both at 21%, were also high.
“Indian Gen Z students want to pursue a career of choice and want to make a difference to the world. They are owning their choices and are global citizens,” said Iyer.
Sustainable development lies at the heart of India’s national education policy, India’s minister of Education Dharmendra Pradhan said recently at Sannam S4’s SDG Conclave in October.
The pandemic is also changing minds on the view of mental health in India, where it was previously seen as taboo, Iyer continued.
“Indian educational institutions can do more to support the youth by openly talking about the challenge of unseen ailments like mental health and instituting support and helplines to support the students,” Iyer added.
The report also highlighted recent years’ focus on social media – 73% of the Gen Z respondents said they use “two or more” social media sites, with a staggering 96% being on Instagram.
Even more shockingly, 18% of those surveyed said they used social media for four or more hours on a daily basis.
The survey outlined takeaways for universities, including a focus on “application-oriented practical learning” rather than theoretical learning.
It also outlined that including SDGs in the curriculum and weaving them into the student experience would also be beneficial for institutions going forward, as well as prioritising mental health of students and being “vocal” about its promotion.