Mums are crucial in shaping kids’ educational mobility

Do you remember that old saying, “Educate a woman and you educate a family”? Well, a study from Lancaster ­University shows just how relevant this saying is today.

Their study has found a mother’s education plays an increasingly important role in shaping their children’s educational achievement, while the importance of the father’s educational level has declined.

Lancaster University in collaboration with the University of British Columbia, Canada, discovered how much gender really matters.

Existing research on social mobility – the extent to which children can achieve educational success ­irrespective of family background – has focused primarily on the role of the father, not the mother.

How wrong that was.

The importance of a mother’s education for her children’s and especially daughters’ educational mobility has overtaken that of a father’s education, particularly in Africa, Asia, the Pacific and Europe, including the UK.

For their study, researchers ­assembled a large-scale global group of 1.79million people born between 1956 and 1990 from 106 nationalities ­worldwide, representing 90% of the world’s population.

We all applaud the rise of gender equality but with it comes an increase in the proportion of mothers paired with a less-educated father. One result is mother-child links in educational level become stronger, and ­father-child links become weaker.

“And our findings show that with the global expansion of education, the rising importance of mothers’ ­education has maintained, if not increased, the influence of parents’ education on their children’s social mobility in many regions,” says Professor Yang Hu, of Lancaster University.

As the number of single-parent, particularly single-mother, families increases globally, it’s possible that this change in family structure will further bolster the importance of the mother in children’s social mobility, the research adds.

Professor Yue Qian, of the University of British Columbia, said: “Given the persistent gendered division of labour in the family, mothers still bear the brunt of child-rearing responsibilities across many parts of the world.

“Scarce attention has been paid to the role of mothers in their children’s social mobility, a question with ­implications for socioeconomic inequality on a global scale.”

But Yue Qian’s motivation stemmed from the prevalence of patriarchal westernised focus.

She said: “As our research evolved, it became apparent to us how a gender lens and a global scope enable new understandings of what happens when education expansion meets with the gender revolution.

“We hope our findings will help catalyse new, gender-sensitive approaches to data collection and measurement development, to inform educational and social policy.”

Let’s hope so.