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Parents demand more for their kids than just STEM

In addition to STEM education, parents want their children to develop this.

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Happy indian latin preteen girl school pupil wearing headphones distance learning online at virtual class with teacher tutor on laptop by video conference call, watching tv lesson at home.
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More than four out of five parents want their young children to learn more than just STEM, according to new research.

A poll of 2,000 American parents of children ages five and younger found 77% 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 said 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 children.

When it comes to choosing an early education provider, 75% said they prioritize providers that embed character development skills in the curriculum.

More than 75% 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 children’s character is developing.

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

“We believe who children become is as important as what they know,” said Jo Kirchner, CEO of Primrose Schools. “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.”

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% 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 shared the volunteer activities they would like to do with their children: 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,” said Dr. Maria Shaheen, senior director of early childhood education at Primrose Schools. “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.”


  • Responsibility - 48%
  • Charity - 43%
  • Honesty - 42%
  • Fairness - 41%
  • Donation - 37%
  • Citizenship - 36%      
  • Conservation - 35%
  • Cooperation - 31%
  • Caring for others - 30%
  • Sympathy - 28%

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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