Most parents agree schools must teach kids about social issues, healthcare, human rights

LONDON — Eight in 10 (81%) parents think educators should spend time teaching things outside of academics, such as soft skills and current events. A survey of 2,000 U.S. parents of children ages six and under finds that 62 percent prioritize their young ones learning soft skills before they’re eight years old, compared to 37 percent who put math at the forefront.

So what are the most important character traits for kids to learn early in life?

Honesty and respect, according to one in five parents. Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Kiddie Academy Educational Child Care System for International Day of Education, the survey also found financial literacy (61%) topped the list of non-academic skills schools should focus on in early childhood, followed by sewing or knitting (46%), and internet safety (45%). 

Eight in 10 (81%) parents also want their children to have an understanding of current events. This includes learning about different cultures (60%), the environment (49%), scientific advancements and discoveries (47%), and technology (47%).

Additionally, nine in 10 believe social issues should be part of the early childhood curriculum. Sixty-six percent said children should be taught about the various forms of discrimination that exist in society, followed by healthcare topics such as affordability and access to treatments (61%) and human rights (55%).

child learning infographic

What should schools be teaching children?

The top three teachable moments parents think are most important to include in a child’s early education? Listening to professionals (such as scientists, authors, software engineers) talk about their field (51%), discussing the news (48%), and reading a book together (44%).

“It’s great to see parents recognizing the importance of soft skills in and outside the classroom,” says Joy Turner, vice president of education for the Kiddie Academy brand, in a statement. “Along with traditional academics and healthy living habits such as fitness, soft skills need to be part of a developmentally appropriate curriculum that helps students learn at their own pace.”

Of the 1,219 parents polled whose children attend school or day care, 95 percent consider it important that their child’s school reinforces the same values they’re learning at home.

While nearly nine in 10 (87%) deem their kid’s school curriculum sufficient, parents continue to be actively involved in their child’s education. To that end, a similar amount (95%) set aside at least two hours a week to talk to their children about what they’ve learned in school.

“Our research shows parents want to extend the lessons their young ones learn beyond the classroom,” Turner adds. “In addition to parents acknowledging the importance of non-academic skills in their children’s lives, 92 percent believe STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) should be taught at home, a similar amount to those who want it taught in school (88%). We’ve found the highest quality education programs have a strong focus on the school-to-home connection that fosters family engagement.”

nonacademic skills graphic

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 American parents with children ages 0–6 was commissioned by Kiddie Academy between Dec. 23, 2022 and Jan. 2, 2023. 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

Sophia Naughton

Meet StudyFinds’ Associate Editor, Sophia Naughton. Sophia graduated Magna Cum Laude from Towson University with a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communication directly focused in journalism and advertising. She is also a freelance writer for Baltimore Magazine. Outside of writing, her best buddy is her spotted Pit Bull, Terrance.

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