August 22, 2013

Americans say kids need more pressure in school, Chinese say less


Nearly two-thirds of Americans say parents do not put enough pressure on children to do well in school.

Years of warnings about low test scores and underperforming schools seem to have had an impact on the U.S. public. A solid majority of Americans wanted parents to put more pressure on children to perform well academically.

DN_Pressure_SchoolsIn a 2011 Pew Research Center survey, 64% said American parents were not putting enough pressure on their children to do well in school; just 11% felt parents were putting too much pressure on their kids and 21% thought the amount of pressure was about right. The view that parents were not pushing their kids hard enough was especially common among 30 to 49 year-olds (72%), the age group most likely to have children under age 18.

Globally, Americans stand out on this question. Among 21 nations polled, the U.S. had the highest percentage saying parents should apply more pressure.

Views were quite different in China, the only country where a majority (68%) said parents put too much pressure on their children to succeed in school. The Chinese education system’s intense focus on test-taking has received a fair amount of attention in recent years, especially after Shanghai students topped the rankings for math, science, and reading on the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) exam. But apparently many Chinese believed the long hours of test prep – according to the OECD 80% of Shanghai students have after school tutoring – were a bit too much.

Category: Daily Number

  1. Photo of Richard Wike

    is director of global attitudes research at Pew Research Center.


  1. JR4 years ago

    In my opinion, questions like these are fairly meaningless. They attempt to either draw or infer some conclusion when it is simply not possible to do so.

    The real question that needs to be asked is what needs to be done to improve education. That question will have different answers for different localities, schools, families and students.

    My oldest was one of two in his class that got straight A’s last year and he is in the gifted program. The volume of homework that is fairly mindless is concerning. I could not in good conscience push him to do more. As a matter of fact I may pull him out of the accelerated classes if they don’t change from ridiculous volume of things to things that are more meaningful. I see more value in him starting online college classes then to pursue a path filled with busy work.

    I push my kids to think, not just to do school work.

    I would venture to say there would be a very big difference in the answers if the question was framed to reflect if the parents were pushing their own kids. It seems many in the US think it’s the “other” parents who aren’t doing their job.

    I would have to say after reading this survey, “so what”. You cannot draw any meaningful conclusions from it.

    1. Jack2 years ago

      What needs to be done to improve education is an end to the two parent working family. Since that is an impossibilty, then the next best thing would be heavy parental involvement in the child’s education. Everybody expects the schools to do all the educating, but this is simply wishful thinking by the mentally lazy.

  2. mray4 years ago

    The framing of this question is very important. What would the results have been if “How much pressure…” was changed to “How much encouragement are parents giving their kids to do well in school?” Or, “How involved are parents in their children’s education?” My guess is we would see a interesting contrast to this data. The term “pressure” suggests a negative influence as opposed to the positive influence of “encourage”. Yes, I would say that American parents could do more to encourage their kids, as well as, be more involved in their kid’s education success. It is quite possible to frame a survey question in order to shape and obtain the data the way you would like.

    1. Richard Wike4 years ago

      Thank you for your comment. You raise good points about the importance of question wording, and I do think concepts like parental involvement or encouragement would be interesting to study, in addition to the concept of pressure, which is what this survey question was intended to measure.