Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

Many Americans say educational system in need of overhaul

As 77 million kids prepare to head back to school in the coming weeks, the public says major changes are needed in the way the education system works in this country. Overall, 66% say either that the education system in this country needs to be completely rebuilt (21%) or that it requires major changes (45%); only 31% think the system works pretty well and requires only minor changes.

The May, 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center found that only immigration policy (75% said it needed at least major changes) and the tax system (72%) were seen as in greater need of an overhaul than the education system (out of the seven policies and systems tested in the survey). More said the education system needed at least major changes than said the same about the Medicare system (58%), the Social Security system (54%) and the homeland security system (44%); about the same percentage said the health care system needed to be revamped (64%).

The public has long seen room for improvement in the way education works in this country. At least six-in-ten have said the education system needed an overhaul when the question was asked in 2005, 2006 and 2011. And dissatisfaction is widely shared: majorities of all major demographic groups say the education system needs to be revamped.

Women (73%) are somewhat more likely than men (60%) to say the education system needs at least major changes, and more in the northeast (79%) think the education system needs an overhaul than those in other regions of the country.

However, there is no difference in opinion between parents of children under age 18 and those without children under the age of 18, and about two-thirds of Republicans (65%), Democrats (67%), and independents (67%) agree that the education system needs at least major changes.

College graduates (75%) are more likely than those with no college experience (60%) to say the education system needs major changes or to be completely rebuilt. However, there is a modest difference of opinion among college graduates: 68% of those with a post-graduate degree say the education system needs at least major changes compared with 79% of those with no more than a college degree.