Authoritarian systems suppress education knowing that it is a danger to them, whilst open societies promote education because they rely on the independent and self-reliable citizens. This is true worldwide.

A recent study followed this general remark in more detail looking at educational goals worldwide.

The study compiled several worldwide databanks and analyzed the educational goals of 227,431 parents from 90 nations across fives study waves (1981–2008). Data came from the European Values Survey, the World Values Survey and the World Bank Data Catalogue.

The researchers looked at both the national and the personal socioeconomic status in comparing obedience and independence as educational goals. We are therefore able to see what matters more: the wealth of nations or someone’s personal situation.

The results firstly confirmed an already well-known correlation between wealth and educational priorities: In prospering nations with a highly educated population independence was an important educational goal, whereas in poorer nations with a lower percentage of highly educated people obedience was a favoured goal. So far, these findings are applicable on the national level.

Secondly, the personal socioeconomic status of the parents was shown to be influential: The higher the annual household income and the level of achievement in formal education, the more is independence prioritized as an educational goal over obedience.

Furthermore, and more surprisingly, the study showed that it is the parent’s social class and not the national situation that is more influential in predicting whether children are educated towards independence or obedience. Therefore, the level of financial security and educational performance shape educational strategy more significantly than the national performance.

The study is restricted insofar that the obedience and independence are accorded different meanings worldwide. Nevertheless, whatever meaning people attribute to such goals the overall intention is clear.

These results strengthen the importance of education and prosperity that is not limited by the borders between nations: Parental priorities are much more influential in predicting educational goals than is the overall national situation.

As a consequence, if we invest in education and provide opportunities for prosperity, we will also provide opportunities of an open society, thereby posing a threat to authoritarian regimes.


Source: Heejung Park and Anna S. Lau, Socioeconomic Status and Parenting Priorities: Child Independence and Obedience Around the World (pages 43–59) In: Journal of Marriage and Family 78 (Feb.2016) – Article first published online: 16 SEP 2015

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