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Off to university -- file photo. (J.P. MOCZULSKI For The Globe and Mail)
Off to university -- file photo. (J.P. MOCZULSKI For The Globe and Mail)

Globe Editorial

Sell value of good education to your children Add to ...

A parent’s job is never done. Once diaper rash and ear-infections are no longer pressing matters, new research suggests the most important role parents have is to remind their progeny of the benefits of a good education.

A study this month from Statistics Canada’s Youth in Transition Survey shines new light on education by focusing on the time, in months, between high school graduation and post-secondary enrolment among students who attend university or college by age 28. A long gap between high school and university or college may reflect finances, family responsibilities or simply a year touring Europe. Yet a recent TD Economics report called post-secondary education “the best investment you can make,” with a 9.9-per-cent annual rate of return. This survey provides parents and governments with valuable insights into the factors behind the decision to go to university or college.

Students with top grades and those who never skip classes tend to enroll in post-secondary education without a long gap after high school, compared to those with lower marks. Students who were not involved in activities outside the classroom took almost a year longer to attend a post-secondary institution than did those who spent several hours a week in extracurricular pursuits. Paid work outside school also delayed higher schooling.

The biggest role for parents lies in emphasizing the importance of a good education. While parental academic attainment is important in the survey, of greater importance is the active participation by parents in their child’s decision-making process. Children of parents who reported post-secondary education as being “very important” had a gap of just three months, while children of parents who felt it was “not important at all” delayed enrolment for 27 months. Positive parental attitudes, rather than parental achievements, are crucial for a swift transition to post-secondary education.

The frequency with which parents make their case is also important. When parents reported never discussing post-secondary education with their children, the gap was over a year. Regular monthly discussions were associated with the shortest possible interval of three months. And for students whose parents brought up the topic on a daily basis, the schooling gap was a lengthier seven months. The lesson here? Parents may know best, but their kids don’t want to be reminded of it every day.

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