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Pearson Global Learner Survey: Majority of Americans Say Their Education Didn’t Adequately Cover Topics of Race, Equality

August 19, 2021 GMT
(PRNewsfoto/Pearson Education, Inc.)
(PRNewsfoto/Pearson Education, Inc.)
(PRNewsfoto/Pearson Education, Inc.)

HOBOKEN, N.J., Aug. 19, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- New polling data released today by Pearson shows that Americans believe their formal education fell short on topics of race and social justice and are now working to educate themselves as these issues become more present and urgent in the world.

The Pearson Global Learner Survey, a poll of more than 5,000 people globally, found that 59% of Americans had concerns about their own lack of adequate education on topics of race and gender equality. Nearly three-quarters of Americans (73%) report they are actively trying to learn more about these issues to make up ground. In addition, 56% of Americans now believe diversity, equity, and inclusion education should begin in elementary school or earlier.


“Americans have always shown a desire for knowledge and a willingness to continue learning over the course of their lives,” said Dr. Florida Starks, chief diversity officer, Pearson. “Over the past year, Americans watched as new attention was given to issues that have been overlooked by many for too long. Rather than turn away, they decided to take action, turning to friends, family, the media, and many other sources to educate themselves, while also looking for our education system to do more to prepare the next generation of students to thrive in a diverse, inclusive, and equitable society.”

Equal Education for All?

Americans believe schools are making progress providing an equal education for all students, but there is still much work to be done:

  • A growing number of Americans-58%-say that the US education system provides a quality education for all, up from 53% in 2020 and 44% in 2019.
  • Still, two-thirds of Americans agree that systemic racism is a problem in the education system, and nearly half (48%) believe the education system is not addressing it well.
  • 76% say schools need to do more to address social and economic inequality among students

Different Generations, Different Education

As education and social conversations evolve, many younger Americans report getting more information about race and gender issues in school.


  • While more than half of all Americans say students should learn about diversity, equity and inclusion in elementary school or earlier, there is especially strong sentiment among Baby Boomers (64%) and Gen X (63%) that inclusive education should start at a young age.
  • While many Americans do not feel that their education adequately covered topics of race and gender equality, that sentiment is especially high among Baby Boomers (68%) and Gen-X (65%) respondents. Gen Z and Millennials report more satisfaction with teaching around these topics.
  • The majority of Americans say they learned some or a lot about slavery (69%) and the civil rights movement (64%), but far fewer learned about Juneteenth (25%), LGBTQ+ issues (24%), the Tulsa Massacre (28%), or Asian American history (34%). Gen Z and Millennials reported learning more about all of these topics than older generations.

A Renewed Interest in History and Social Justice

As adults, people are showing a renewed interest in educating themselves about the topics many say they didn’t learn in school, but see in the world around them:

  • Interest in self education in social justice is even higher among younger, more socially conscious Americans, with 83% of Gen Z and 81% of Millennial respondents reporting that within the past year they have done something to learn about people of a different race, gender, disability or sexual orientation from themselves.
  • Among all Americans, 41% report reading a news article to learn more about the issues affecting others, while 34% report that they have watched a documentary, 30% have researched topics online, and 30% have spoken with a friend or family member.

Optimism for the Future of Education

Despite concerns over its present state, Americans are optimistic about the future of education:

  • 80% believe education generally will become more accessible, with a growing number (46%) saying that college is becoming more attainable for the average person. That’s an increase of 10 percentage points over 2020 and 13 percentage points over 2019.

This poll was conducted by Morning Consult from May 27 – June 1, 2021, among a total sample of 5,000 people in the United States, United Kingdom, Brazil, India, and China between 16 and 70 years of age. There were 1,000 people surveyed in the United States (213 Gen Z; 337 Millennial; 236 GenX; 214 Baby Boomers). The interviews were conducted online. Results are representative of the online population with a margin of error of plus and minus two percentage points.

Now in its third year, Pearson’s Global Learner Survey is the leading poll of learners and on education issues in the world, offering a deeper understanding of trends in education and providing key data to help further discussions on many important issues.

About Pearson

Learning is the most powerful force for change in the world. More than 20,000 Pearson employees deliver our products and services in nearly 200 countries, all working towards a common purpose – to help everyone achieve their potential through learning. We do that by providing high quality, digital content and learning experiences, as well as assessments and qualifications that help people build their skills and grow with the world around them. We are the world’s leading learning company. Learn more at

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SOURCE Pearson