U.S. Schools Should Teach Soft Skills

August 23, 2013 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – Americans want schools to teach “soft” skills such as critical thinking and communication, according to a new Gallup/Phi Delta Kappa poll.

More than three in four survey respondents said they “strongly agree” that K-12 schools should teach critical thinking and communication skills to children. Sixty-four percent strongly agree that goal setting should be taught, while 61% strongly agree schools should know how to motivate students. A majority also strongly agree that things like creativity (58%) and collaboration (57%) are meaningful teacher targets.

Among the skills asked about in the poll, Americans were least likely to strongly agree that schools should build student character and promote student wellbeing, but a majority still did (51% and 54%, respectively).

Parents do not see the school as making a major difference in promoting their child’s wellbeing in any kind of overwhelming fashion. One-third of parents (33%) strongly agree that “My child has substantially higher wellbeing because of the school he or she attends,” and another 31% agree with this statement.

More than half agree or strongly agree (58%) that their child's school promotes building relationships with family and friends. A similar percentage also agrees their child's school does things to help their child be healthier (56%) and encourages them to be more involved in their community (53%).

When it comes to financial wellbeing, fewer parents (15%) agree that their child’s school is involved in teaching their child how to manage finances more effectively.

According to Gallup, “Critical thinking, creativity, communication, and other soft skills, as well as student physical and social wellbeing, are also necessary for future success in higher education and in the workplace.”

The poll is based on a telephone survey that Gallup conducted, on behalf of Phi Delta Kappa, with 1,001 adults age 18 and older. The poll was conducted from May 7 to May 31, 2013.