Finding youth purpose and meaning: What Singaporean and Israeli adolescents are telling us

Project Number
RS 7/16 MAH

Project Duration
July 2016 - June 2018


At a time when school reforms in many educational systems are driven by performance outcomes, some scholars argue that we should be asking bigger and more fundamental questions. What are schools doing to help students use the knowledge and skills they learn in school in their own lives and aspirations? This study seeks to find out the purpose behind why schooling remains relevant and important and why students should care about what they learn. This is the first international comparative study between Singapore and Israel to find out from adolescents the purposes that underlie their learning, school and life experiences. Purpose is defined as a long-lasting intention to accomplish something that is meaningful not only to self but to the world beyond self (Damon, 2008). All young people are capable of discovering life purposes, and purpose is positively related to life satisfaction or wellbeing (e.g., Damon & Brosnan, 2009). This study investigates a number of urgent questions concerning whether adolescents in Singapore and Israeli schools have positive purposes to commit themselves to, what the nature of adolescent purposes might be that inspire them, how adolescents have developed such purposes and meanings, and what schools can do to help more students find clear purpose in life. Questionnaires examining youth purpose (Bronk & Finch, 2010), social support (Malecki & Demaray, 2002) and life satisfaction (Diener, Emmons, Larsen, & Griffin, 1985) that have been administered to adolescents in Singapore (n = 207) will be examined in relation to adolescents in Israel (n = 200). Clinical interviews (Ginsburg, 1997) conducted with 10 individual students from each country (with high or low scores on at least one scale) will also be examined. Findings about youths’ purpose in Singapore and Israel will be discussed, with implications for what schools and education policy-makers can do to be intentional in helping students think about the big questions of curiosity and passion for learning, and purpose and aspirations in their own lives.

Funding Source

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