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WE NEED TO TALK

Survey: Americans care more about kids being good communicators than mathematicians

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
Let’s play the communication game.
By Sonali Kohli
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Bettering math and science education might be a priority for US president Barack Obama’s administration, but Americans overwhelmingly think the most important skill for children to succeed is something else—communication.

A Pew survey released today asked about 3,000 Americans what skills are most important for children “to get ahead in the world today.” Communication—skills such as listening well, speaking effectively, and being able to articulate ideas—came in ahead of math, science, and even reading. Teamwork, another “soft skill,” also outranked science and is on par with math (there’s a 2.7% margin of error). Most of those surveyed also believe that math and science are also important, of course.

Americans may be on the right track by prioritizing communication, according to a small-scale 2013 survey (pdf) from the nonprofit workforce development group Seattle Jobs Initiative, which surveyed 50 local employers on the importance of soft skills. Three-quarters said soft skills are at least as important as technical skills to be hired for an entry-level position. And 55% of employers surveyed felt that entry-level job applicants lack communication skills. The most in-demand communication skills were being able to speak effectively and listen actively.

A larger, 260-employer survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers last year found similar results—73% said they wanted to see written communication skills on a resume, and 67% wanted verbal communication skills.

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