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

NEW YORK — More than four out of five parents want their young children to learn more than just STEM. A poll of 2,000 American parents of children ages five and younger found 77 percent believe character development skills are just as important for their young children as academic skills in early education.

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 also would like to see their children learn responsibility (48%), charity (43%), honesty (42%), and fairness (41%) in the classroom.

Commissioned by Primrose Schools and conducted by OnePoll, two in three parents surveyed (67%) wished they themselves were taught character development skills when they were students. When it comes to choosing an early education provider, 75 percent prioritize providers that embed character development skills in 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 doing something that made them realize their character was developing.

The specific actions these parents witnessed included consoling other children (62%), sharing toys (52%), and starting conversations (51%).

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

Can kids learn more outside the classroom?

Nearly three out of four respondents (73%) also shared they believe some of the best learning opportunities can even come from outside the classroom. For many, that comes in the form of charity work — over half (52%) think their children are old enough to participate in community service. Of them, 89 percent would love to participate alongside them.

Three in four (74%) have been inspired by their children to be more active in their community — learning a variety of valuable skills from their children like responsibility (37%), fairness (37%), charity (36%), donation (36%), and honesty (31%). Parents say the volunteer activities they would like to do with their children include community volunteering (46%), park cleanups (45%), clothing drives (42%), and toy drives (39%).

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

Survey methodology:

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

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About the Author

Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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  1. Character development is for parents to teach and model. This can be supported in a classroom by teachers. We want teachers to teach, including STEM subjects.

  2. Why wasn’t there a mention of the character education laws in place across the country? In my state those were carefully built into the K-3 social studies standards when they were last revised and influenced the standards in the grades above.

    Few schools teach those standards because they aren’t tested, but they exist.

    1. Only recently has this changed. IMO, this changed because companies were throwing money at schools to include STEM and not character. Schools also run into flack when they try to hold students responsible and others say “but they tried” so there are no longer natural consequences for actions like failure to do their assignments. If we bring back character and citizenship while requiring students to actually DO the work and not make excuses, we honestly could improve education.

  3. Um, no. Parents must raise their children, not give them up to others to raise. Doing so will absolutely F up your kids. Teachers are not your co-parents. Grow up and shape a human soul into a good human being. You brought them into the world, you lazy, selfish tuuurd.

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