Positive future prospects for all young people

Een groepje jongeren die lachend overlegt in de kantine op school.

Coriena de Heer is the fourth and final Master’s student to step in the footsteps of Emeritus Professor of Pedagogy Micha de Winter by conducting research for one year under the fellowship programme set up in his name. De Heer will focus on expectations for the future among young people in Utrecht prior to and during the coronavirus pandemic. What factors lead to positive expectations for the future? And did the coronavirus pandemic trigger a change in those expectations?

Coriena de Heer

Coriena de Heer has been involved with the ‘YOUth got Talent’ project since her Master’s. During her Master’s, she assisted with the data collection at secondary vocational (MBO) schools. In her fellowship project, she will now analyse those data. “This project offers me the opportunity to combine research with field work,” says De Heer.

Future prospects

De Heer’s research will look into the future prospects of young people prior to and during the coronavirus pandemic: “We are going to examine how young people see their future prospects, so what their expectations are. This question relates to how satisfied you are with your life and also to your mental health, but it’s formulated in more positive terms.” To analyse young people’s expectations for their future, a survey using questionnaires was conducted among young people at MBO schools in Utrecht prior to and at different times during the coronavirus pandemic.

Different groups

The plan is that De Heer will first examine whether young people currently have different expectations for their future than before the pandemic. She will then look at the characteristics of groups of young people who were vulnerable during the pandemic, as well as those who were resilient. Supervisor Gonneke Stevens explains: “In our questionnaires, we focused on numerous different topics, such as socio-economic status, migrant background, and support from family and friends.” De Heer adds: “We expect to find different groups who were more optimistic or less optimistic about their future, or whose optimism about their future increased or decreased during the pandemic. If we can manage to distinguish between or detect these groups, we will learn which groups of young people we can offer more or better support in future. Or how we can use the resilience shown by other groups of young people.”

Een groepje lachende jongeren.

Interviewing young people

The fellowship was created in honour of Emeritus Professor Micha de Winter upon his retirement. His colleagues in the field took this initiative as a token of appreciation for his work, which has made a great contribution to the field of pedagogy. Mariëtte de Haan, Utrecht University researcher and former colleague, explains: “His ideas often turn established concepts upside down. When researching young people growing up, researchers usually think in terms of risks, and the point of view of young people themselves is lacking. De Winter has shown the importance of hope, perspective and youth participation in pedagogy." Coriena de Heer will also organise focus groups in collaboration with the Netherlands Youth Institute and she will personally interview young people. De Heer: “That’s what I’m looking really forward to. We want to invite students, but also policymakers and professionals. I want to learn about their stories. That provides a richer source of information than figures alone.”

I want to learn about their stories. That provides a richer source of information than figures alone.

Extra attention

What does De Heer hope to find through her research? “Of course, I hope that everyone is doing fine. But looking at it realistically, my main hope is that we can find an answer to the question which students need extra attention and how we can best support them. I want to better identify this group of students, so that we can do more for them. I would like all young people to have a positive outlook for the future. And I will try to contribute to this with my research.”