Forget STEM classes, parents want schools to help improve their children’s character

NEW YORK – More than four in five parents want their young children to learn more than just STEM. A poll of 2,000 U.S. parents of children five and under found that 77 percent believe character development skills are just as important to their young children as early-school academic skills.

In addition to STEM education, parents want their children to develop a sense of belonging and community (77%) and learn the value of community service (75%). Parents say they would also like their children to learn responsibility (48%), charity (43%), honesty (42%) and justice (41%) in the classroom.

Commissioned by Primrose Schools and conducted by OnePoll, two in three parents surveyed (67%) wish they had learned character development skills themselves while still students. When it comes to choosing a preschool education provider, 75 percent prioritize providers who incorporate character development skills into their curriculum.

More than 75 percent of parents think society would be a better place if their children learned character development skills in the classroom. Sixty-one percent have witnessed their children do something that made them realize their character was developing.

The specific actions these parents witnessed were comforting other children (62%), sharing toys (52%), and engaging in conversations (51%).

“We believe that who children become is just as important as what they know,” Jo Kirchner, CEO of Primrose Schools, said in a statement. “These findings underscore a significant shift in parental attitudes and priorities for their young children, and revealing character development skills is just as important as academics. Positive traits such as responsibility, sympathy and concern for others help children reach their full potential at home, in the classroom and in the community.”

Can children learn more outside of the classroom?

Nearly three in four respondents (73%) also said they believe some of the best learning opportunities can even come from outside the classroom. For many, that comes in the form of charitable work – more than half (52%) think their children are old enough to participate in community work. Of them, 89 percent would like to join them.

Three in four (74%) are inspired by their children to be more active in their communities — teaching their children a variety of valuable skills, such as responsibility (37%), honesty (37%), charity (36% ), donation (36%) and honesty (31%). Parents say they do volunteer work with their children, such as community volunteering (46%), park cleanup (45%), clothing campaigns (42%), and toy campaigns (39%).

“Research shows that young children have a natural instinct to care for and help others from an early age,” said Dr. Maria Shaheen, senior director of early childhood education at Primrose Schools, in a statement. “A curriculum for young children that places special emphasis on character development — helping to nurture kindness, generosity and compassion — can be critical to a child’s understanding of how to become a caring citizen of the world.”

Research methodology:

This randomized double-opt-in survey of 2,000 U.S. parents of children ages 0-5 was commissioned by Primrose Schools between September 6 and September 9, 2022. It was conducted by market research firm OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

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