All parents are keen to give their children the best education possible. They do everything they can to see that the children are admitted to good schools. However, the role of parents doesn’t end with the enrolment of the child in school. Today’s academic environment demands that parents be actively involved in their children’s schooling at dual levels – with the child as a learner and with the school as an institution. Sometimes it can also involve a third level—the community.
Involvement in this respect means active interaction with the child in all dimensions of school life and with the school in collaborative and cooperative efforts. However, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ type of parental involvement in schooling. Each school has its own policies, expectations, strengths and limitations. Understanding and accepting these are vital for effective parental involvement in a child’s education.
Involvement is a caring, creative process that involves awareness and understanding of the many roles a parent can play in helping the child deal with both the ups and the downs of school life and helping the school develop.
How much involvement is good enough? How much is too much? Indeed, it’s not an easy calculation! It is commonly observed that parent turn-out at school meetings or discussions is almost 100% at entry level and the least in Class 12. Often, it is the same miniscule number of enthusiastic parents who turn up regularly - or once too often! An oft-heard comment from teachers is that those parents who need to interact with their child’s school the most are the ones who rarely or never turn up!
Here are some benefits that go with parents getting involved in their children’s schooling.
Benefits for the child
- Preadolescence is infused with unbridled enthusiasm for learning and mastering things. Children in this age-group feel highly motivated when their parents share some of this enthusiasm.
- The involvement of parents in school-related matters is an effective means of helping the child to become accountable to self and parents.
- The child is more willing to share school experiences, both academic and socio-emotional, if he sees that his parents are interested and involved.
- Children whose parents are actively involved with schooling get relevant support in academics and encouragement in extra-curricular activities at school.
- The child feels secure that parents are aware of school expectations.
- She learns that cooperation is an important value.
- The child learns basic problem-solving and conflict management skills by observing how proactive parents deal with situations regarding school. This also builds cooperation between the parents and the child.
Benefits for parents
- Involvement in their child’s schooling makes parents responsible and accountable to their wards.
- It is a great way for parents to demonstrate their genuine care and concern, and make the child feel valued.
- It also helps new parents integrate into the school system and seek appropriate help from the teachers and the management.
- Parents’ awareness about the school and the child’s progress contribute towards ensuring the academic well-being of the child.
- Involvement allows parents to notice subtle but significant negative changes in the child. These changes are often the start of a downward spiral either in academics or the emotional state.
- Involvement in schooling gives parents an awareness of extra- and co-curricular programmes and motivates them to keep communications open on a variety of topics, values, and life issues.
- Interacting with the teachers and the management helps parents understand what the school stands for, and its style of functioning. It will help them reinforce acceptable behaviour and discourage unacceptable habits.
- Getting involved in a child’s schooling gives parents the opportunity to support and collaborate with the school through the PTA and other activities.
Let us now see how parents can play an active role in their children's schooling.
Ways for parents to get involved in schooling
- Parents should clearly understand the boundaries of involvement and work within them.
- They can bring in creative ideas, talents, experiences and positive influence for the benefit of school development, events, etc. Caution: Unhealthy competition among parents can put unnecessary pressure on children.
- Working parents who find it difficult to attend events, meetings, etc., can contribute with ideas and resources. However it is important to be present on the day of the event. It’s a great way to show genuine interest in your child. If parents cannot be present at any of these events for unavoidable reasons, the child must be told about it and be prepared for it in advance.
- Parents should be their natural selves. It is easy to get overwhelmed by high profile, highly energetic, dominating fellow parents. We should remember that children are watching how parents conduct themselves. Therefore parents should be good role models.
- They should be inclusive of fellow parents irrespective of differences and diversity.
- WhatsApp groups can be formed by class parents for various kinds of communication about school. Care must be taken to stick to formal messages, avoid gossip or shaming another child/parent. Caution: It is very important to ensure that children do not have access to these groups.
- Parents should use discretion in deciding when to step back. Most importantly, they need to trust the school in dealing with routine as well as serious matters, unless there is a major breach in function and protocol.
Things to avoid
- Parents must desist from involvement in specific events if there is a conflict of values.
- Adults with poor self-esteem tend to interpret situations negatively. This can lead to misunderstandings and judgements about teachers, fellow parents and the children’s peers. So, parents should steer away from such situations.
- Parents must take care not to participate in events just to prove a point.
- Parents who get involved in their child’s schooling only when the child is having some difficulty tend to come across in a rather negative manner. The trick is to be supportive and appreciative as well. Schools take more kindly to such parents and are willing to go the extra mile.
- Parents should avoid the ‘my child’ syndrome. Some parents participate with this singular perspective. We should remember that the school is an organic and forceful ecosystem where all children matter.
We should keep in mind that children watch parents closely and model themselves on how parents deal with difficult situations, confrontational teachers, and complaints. The onus is on the parent to handle such issues assertively and constructively rather than through manipulation or aggression.
Arundhati Swamy holds a Masters degree in Social Work with specialisation in Family and Child Welfare from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. She is currently a Counselor for a number of leading schools in the city.
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