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Women care more than do men about education goals

Source: Scripps Howard News Service
Date: August 24, 2005

Women are more likely than men to insist upon high goals and standards for what public schools should be teaching, according to a survey by the Scripps Survey Research Center at Ohio University.

American women are already the primary consumers of education in America, accounting for at least 57 percent of four-year college students.

But the poll's results suggest that women are more likely then men to insist that public schools should seek a broad range of ambitious goals, such as providing sound academic skills, preparing students to become good citizens and helping students to become reliable workers and to work well in teams.

The poll of 1,016 adult residents of the United States found that women consistently were more likely than men to label educational goals as "very important."

"This may be the result of a continued gender difference in level of women's involvement with education of their families," said Ashley Carr of the American Association of University Women.

"The mother is still the primary caretaker when it comes to the family's relationship with local schools. They are more likely then men to know what is going on," Carr said.

The survey asked people to rate the importance of eight possible goals for public schools. The list included traditional goals such as teaching children basic academic skills and how to solve problems to less traditional notions such as teaching kids to be self confident, to develop good health and exercise habits and to develop vocational skills for future employment.

In all eight cases, women were significantly more likely to grade each goal as "very important" than were men.

Some of the differences were relatively small. Ninety-one percent of women thought that "teaching basic academic skills" is "very important" compared to 83 percent of men. Some of the differences were much larger. Only 40 percent of men said teaching children about music and the arts should be "very important" compared to 58 percent among women.

But women were consistently more likely than men to ascribe high importance to each of the educational goals, suggesting that women generally are placing higher value on education than do men.

"There certainly has been a lot of discussions lately about boys versus girls. And there have been some incidence of boys who've been turning away from traditional education," said Carr.

The National Center for Education Statistics reports that women earned 43 percent of the bachelor's degrees awarded in 1970 while men obtained 57 percent. Those statistics were exactly reversed by 2002.

"My sense is that girls are increasing their expectations while the boys are staying about the same," said educational researcher Katharin Peter who recently published an extensive study of gender differences in college education.

The Scripps Center poll found that women were especially more likely then men to demand conceptual goals for education. Asked if schools should "provide students with problem solving skills," about 78 percent of women and 62 percent of men scored this goal as "very important."

Seventy-two percent of women said it's "very important" to "prepare students to be good citizens" compared to 60 percent of men.

The survey was conducted by telephone from July 5-19 among 1,016 households nationwide. It has a margin of error of about 4 percentage points. It was funded through a grant from the Scripps Foundation.