parent opinion

From doctors to scientists, our kids' heroes will look different this year.

Our world looks different this year. Work has been reshaped, our leisure and social lives are barely recognisable, and our routines have been reimagined; all in a matter of weeks.

But as our communities shift around the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re creating room for new heroes to emerge.

All of a sudden, the people we are listening to, looking to and seeking out are wearing white coats, rather than football jerseys.

They’re the people explaining graphs and curves and data, rather than a breakup with a famous ex.

The people with a qualification in front of their name, rather than the size of their Instagram following.

Watch: The key facts about COVID-19. Post continues below.

Video by Mamamia

As awful and destructive as this pandemic situation is, it presents a unique opportunity to hero the enormous influence and life-saving potential of working in STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) and healthcare. And that’s something that could filter down to the ambitions of the next generation.

2018 research by the World Economic Forum involving 20,000 children aged 7-11 from around the world, found that career aspirations are set at the age of seven and change relatively little between then and 18. And crucially, most learned about jobs through seeing adults in their lives doing them, or by seeing them on TV or in the media.


Little wonder then that last year, when 3,000 8-12-year-olds in the US, UK and China were given a list of dream jobs to choose from by The Harris Poll researchers, the most popular was ‘YouTuber’. In fact, children were three times more likely to choose YouTube vlogging than being an astronaut.

Now, with our screens and conversation dominated by the fight against COVID-19, there’s a spotlight on professions rarely afforded one, and new professionals for children/teens to admire and aspire to be.

Like Professor David Paterson and his team from the University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research, who identified two existing drugs as a possible novel coronavirus “cure”. (They’re currently running a clinical trial.)

A doctor and an infectious disease specialist answer your COVID-19 questions. Post continues.

Or Professor Katherine Kedzierska and her team at the University of Melbourne’s Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, who discovered how the body’s immune system fights off COVID-19.

Or the ABC’s Dr Norman Swan, ANU’s Associate Professor Sanjaya Senanayake and dozens of other experts who have shared their knowledge through the media; speaking in simple, authoritative terms so that we — the public — can better understand what’s unfolding around us.

And, of course, everyone in frontline healthcare — nurses, doctors, specialists — dedicating their waking hours to saving lives and shielding us from a common enemy.

Children (and adults!) can see these masked heroes on their screens and feel safer, comforted by the knowledge that a team of thousands is there to help.

When this is all over, we’ll no doubt turn back to celebrities and football players as they return to the stage, screen and field. After all, they entertain and unite us, and we’ll sorely need both of those things.

But here’s hoping that the current appreciation for people in STEM and healthcare lingers. It could inspire a whole new generation of heroes.