Categories
The Aawaaz Blog Uncategorised

A Pivotal Balancing Act: Parental Involvement in Education

Policy-making in Education is a difficult task in a country with countless socio-economic-cultural groups. Making effective policy decisions needs appropriate involvement of all stakeholders. In the process of stakeholder identification, a mistake that is often made is separating the learning spheres in children’s lives: Teachers and students come together in the education process in schools while parents/guardians are only a secondary part of this process at home. This disregard for acknowledging the importance of parental inclusion in the education of children across India, isolates a lot of families from a meaningful learning process. There is currently a grave need to encourage parent-participation by schools and governments. 

 

What is parental involvement? Why do we need it?

Parent-engagement happens when teachers involve parents in school meetings or events, and parents volunteer their support at home and at school. According to Centre for Child Well-Being (2010), parental involvement in their child’s learning not only improves a child’s morale, attitude, and academic achievement, but it also promotes better behavior and social adjustment. 

 

Parents who monitor, support and volunteer in their child’s learning enable their children to understand that learning at school and home is connected and is an integral part of the whole family’s life. Parents know their child across situations and time – their academic potential, social skills, and attitudes – to mention a few, while teachers have limited contact with individual students in a classroom environment alone. Home and school environments combined create a fuller understanding of a student; thus, a teacher can identify where to tap and benchmark a child’s performance level.

 

As per Social Learning Theory (Bandura, 1977) and research thereafter, it has been long proven that children observe and respond to cues in their environment and the attitudes of their caregivers and exhibit behaviour corresponding to the same. When adults have an unconcerned reaction towards the child’s schooling, the child comes to believe that learning is simply a part of their routine activities, and can be neglected. On the other hand, parents that consistently show up for school activities or simply help out their children enable the creation of a strong learning network. Children who feel supported at home are more self-assured and take charge of their own learning. Such children set more ambitious goals and place greater value on academic achievement.

 

The tricky balancing act, however, is how much involvement is enough involvement. Should parents monitor and approve all study plans and projects taken up by children? Parenting that involves over-monitoring of children’s activities, or ‘helicopter parenting’ has glaring harms. As per a study published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies, over-involvement in a child’s academic life and decisions can cause a greater dependence of the child on the parent, which can last well into adulthood. They lose confidence in the decisions that they make for themselves and get overwhelmed by responsibilities. Such children are prone to excessive anxiety that takes a hit on their school life and mental health. Even though parents have a significant presence throughout a child’s developmental phases, it becomes important for them to draw a boundary on how much involvement is beneficial for children. They need to leave enough space for their child to get creative with their learning, and learn from their own mistakes along the way. 

 

India has a significant number of adults who have had very poor educational access when growing up and many first-generation learners as well. Many households have parents who cannot offer meaningful assistance to young learners and thus remain passive in the learning process. In this situation, schools and governments need to fill several gaps. One of these is designing activities that allow parents from all walks of life to actively engage with their child’s learning. Schools need to go beyond the one-way communication that happens in Parent-Teacher Meetings and have better conversations where all stakeholders can identify the learning needs of students. Increasing involvement demands expenditure on education, as individual schools and teachers cannot realistically solve a large, systemic problem. Hiring more teachers allows the creation of smaller classrooms where teachers can reach out to parents without massive overburdening is a long-overdue reform. This would allow more meaningful communication between the two parties with greater ease. Even the implementation of technological solutions to include parents via online platforms needs infrastructure which would help train both parents and teachers. Implementation of possible solutions involves Government agencies to show greater commitment to improving the current state of Education in the country.  Since the attitudes and actions of parents are deeply impactful, it is important that they become a better-recognized stakeholder in education policies; and students have the underpinning of teachers, parents, and resources that support their growth.

Categories
The Aawaaz Blog

Bridging the Gap: We Can’t Isolate STEM from the Arts

Until 2018, students in CBSE affiliated high schools were reading one unabridged novel every year as part of their curriculum. The texts were versatile: a tale of perseverance in ‘The Story of My Life’ by Helen Keller, a Sci-fi account of ‘The Invisible Man’ among others. However, in 2019, seeing the overwhelming number of students drawn to STEM (approx. 15 lakh JEE/NEET aspirants each year), it was decided that the humanities were of little use for these stressed students. Since then, CBSE has undertaken syllabus cut downs exclusively in the social sciences and literature to provide necessary ‘unburdening’.

CBSE’s actions further a traditionally maintained divide that views STEM and the humanities as distinct educational priorities. This separation of disciplines hurts education and limits our ability to solve big and small problems. When it comes to STEM, Indians are very involved in various Sci-Tech industries, though often as workers and more infrequently as leaders and visionaries: we are expert learners and efficient employees but we don’t seem to win enough Nobel prizes, publish ground-breaking research or create radically new things. What goes unrealized is that no matter how much knowledge of science these individuals have, applying the same for the creation of something novel requires certain skills that they missed out on, because they were discouraged from a more integrated liberal education early on. 

Innovation requires critical and divergent thinking and understanding of social circumstances. Social innovation, which seeks to uplift the lives of different people using science has emerged as the most valuable field of scientific endeavour in recent years. A key prerequisite for creating something for a diverse society is the ability to empathise with equally diverse people and their needs. Reading offers the ability to see the world from another perspective, to immerse oneself in lives that are embedded in different contexts and to empathize with people who may be very different. 

Novels build complex characters that make difficult choices, and have grave flaws. When taught in classrooms, novels are deconstructed by students: why a character acts a certain way, what social factors contribute to their misfortune, etc. This entire process involves the use and development of critical thinking. In fact, as per the European Journal of Communication Research, novels are widely accepted as exceptional tools in developing soft skills like dialogue, creativity and emotional intelligence – all being skills that every STEM student can only benefit from. 

The syllabus changes are part of a larger discouragement of the pursuit of liberal arts degrees because these graduates appear to have lower employability. Research has often proven otherwise. Glassdoor’s 2019 research found that eight of the top 10 best jobs in the UK were managerial positions – people-oriented roles that require communication skills and emotional intelligence, and arts graduates excelled at these. As per BBC Worklife, the benefit of a humanities degree is the emphasis it puts on teaching students to think, critique and persuade; the combination of these skills along with STEM offers a more realistic chance of finding sustainable people-centric solutions to global and local issues while creating more innovative and employable graduates.

CBSE is a very visible and influential part of the secondary education mechanism in India. Its decision to chip away areas of study that it deems less contributory to landing jobs represents much of what is wrong with the pedagogical machinery. The guiding principle to education cannot be to create people crafted to fit one job; rather individuals who have enough skill and knowledge at their disposal to create jobs, ideas and solutions, and enough curiosity to learn more when they lack this knowledge. To better cultivate such skills, bridging the gap between STEM-Humanities is a good starting point.

Categories
The Aawaaz Blog

Levelling the Learning Field – Tech Can Do It Better

As 2020 takes a historically memorable turn, most students seem to have made necessary adjustments to carry on with their academic endeavours: buying bigger data packs, installing Google Classroom, and so forth. However, the disruption caused by COVID-19 cannot go unnoticed, and once again points at the weakness of the Indian education system. As a country that relies on public education for 71% of its learners, there’s a near-total split from schooling for a sizable section of school students in the wake of the pandemic. When they can resume their learning goes unanswered, simply because there’s no existing plan to facilitate eLearning.

The stark reality in current times is that India has a visible obsession with digitization in all spheres and the current government believes that the nation will soon play a role in defining the knowledge economy of this century. However, achieving the latter is increasingly unlikely, without the foundation of a more holistic education that introduces technology early on, and that is yet to occur. 

At the same time, the union budget allocation for education has dipped from 4.14% in 2014-15 to 3.45% of the GDP in 2019-20. Raising the budgetary allowance to at least 6% of GDP share is a necessity for a nation having a demanding responsibility of educating 133.92 crore Indians.

So why, despite the cash-strapped economy, is education technology still worth introducing on a larger scale? Access to technology can provide more equalised learning to a greater number of students. It has been long ignored that when students are marginalized from the current system owing to gender, caste, and other social disadvantages; it is challenging for them to be motivated to learn skills in the classroom set-up. Learning apps, audio-visual resources and even educational games can help embed interest in schooling. Technology can better serve the linguistic needs of students across the nation as well. eBooks allow students to better access their curriculum, as many schools in rural areas report understocking of textbooks. In further pursuit of accessible education, the eLearning industry can offer several resources to accommodate students with different learning pace and also customize audio, visual and textual materials for students with a diverse range of disabilities.

The harder task at hand is identifying the best way, to begin with this introduction. Inaugural efforts were made by the NITI Aayog that launched Atal Innovation Mission to familiarise students with STEM technology, robotics, and so forth: after realising the importance of creating innovators. Interestingly, only schools with 1000 square ft. of built-up free space are considered eligible to apply and get an Atal Tinkering Lab under this mission. This is reminiscent of Green Revolution-style hopes and results: selective picking of institutions that are already better off in an ambitious programme that is not sustainable in the long run, while hoping that it will launch India into a new Digital Age. The Mission running from 2015-16 has not churned out any noticeable achievements, while each ATL enabled school continues to get Rs. 20 lakh of tax money.

The power of humbler beginnings: Starting smaller might minimise the wastage of funding and make outreach of technology more divergent. Simply put; introducing one PC, or teaching usage of few educational apps (India has 200 million+ rural smartphone users as per Kantar IMRB) and involving parents with lesser technical know-how in the same can yield better integration of technology in Indian education with lesser cost than monumental missions right now.

The introduction of equitable education using technology depends on improving policy formulation along with more realistic budgeting. After all, it is the Prime Minister who himself said, ‘the world is at an inflection point where technological advancement is transformational.’