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.