Children are often referred to as leaders of tomorrow and indeed they are, because these children will grow up into adults in the nearest future and lead the nation. As a result of this, adequate attention has to be paid to the upbringing of every child in order to ensure a better future of any community. When we think about the upbringing of children, what readily comes to mind is education. It would suffice to remind us that often times, we have heard that education of children can be broken into formal and informal education but in recent times, the lines between this two forms of education is becoming blurred with increasing roles of family in child education.
The involvement of family in children education is as old as the American education system itself even though, it seems new. Educators had seriously advocated their strong belief in the value that parental involvement in education bring into a child and, for years, parents have participated with schools in helping their children learn to their potential. Everyone seems to agree that family involvement is a good thing So, why is such strong attention currently being paid to developing family-school relationships? A look at past, present, and future practices can help shed light on this question.
The development of family-school relationship has witnessed three major phases, leading to the current family involvement practices. The evolution was broken into the following phases.
- Parent education.
Parent education can be traced back to the 1920s. These early efforts grew out of the belief that children’s development could be enhanced by informed child upbringing practices. Over the years, many parent education programs have been developed in response to parents’ desires for information about child/adolescent development and support in meeting their children’s health and developmental needs. At this phase of the development parents were just interested in the need to know what their children needs to know at particular points in time, so that they can provide adequate support. The process of getting this information was through programs organized by the school.
- Parent involvement in education.
Originally, parent involvement grew out of a desire to include parents in their children’s education, but in school-prescribed ways. This approach—which is often considered to be aligned with traditional, middle class values about education—views parents and school staff members as serving separate roles and responsibilities for educating and socializing children and youth. As a result of this core belief, parent involvement is limited to such activities as volunteering, fundraising, and helping with homework. Similarly, most contacts between parents and educators are relegated to prescribed times—such as parent-teacher conferences or back-to-school nights—unless the child’s behavior has forced a crisis, in which case parents are summoned immediately. Moreover, communication associated with this approach tends to be one-way, mostly from school to the home, and often focuses on teacher evaluation of student progress and/or teacher recommendations for what parents should do. In this approach, success typically is measured in terms of the number of parent contacts, or in terms of which parents attend school functions and participate at school.
- Family-school partnership.
In the late 1800s, it was a common practice for a community to hire a teacher who lived in the community. Such a practice encouraged close and frequent contact and shared norms between home and school. Contrast this with the situation facing most school communities in the mid 20th century, when a physical and social distance between the school staff and community became the norm. Stimulated, in part, by the movement to professionalize the teaching profession, teachers increasingly chose to live outside of the school community in which they worked. In some cases, a greater cultural diversity existed within the school community than within the school staff. As a result, a discontinuity between home and school around key educational issues began to emerge. The discontinued students experience between their school and home environments is one explanatory factor for lower school performance. Addressing this discontinuity is critical for student success in school, and is a variable addressed in many effective family-school partnership programs. The family-school partnership movement is intended to address this discontinuity by changing school practices to reach families that were uninvolved and to address the physical and social distance that was increasing between families and educators.
The family-school partnership approach is characterized by a belief in shared responsibility for educating and socializing children and youth. The approach emphasizes collaborative problem solving and shared decision making strategies to provide students with consistent, congruent messages about their schoolwork and behavior. Although families and educators each have legitimate roles in the partnership, they are not rigid or predetermined. Rather, the emphasis is on relationship building and finding ways for families and educators to work together to promote the educational experiences and school successes of students. Parents are valued for their contributions, whether they are performed in the school or in the home.
In recent times, attitude towards family involvement in children’s’ education is changing. This change is observed to be influenced and shaped by a number of factors. The most frequently cited are:
- Research and experience.
Research and Experience Support the Positive Effect of Family-School Relationships The cumulative impact of research findings underscores the importance of the home in contributing to children’s school progress. The quality of family-school interaction rather than the quantity of contacts, has been shown to have a positive association with student achievement and behavior. Relationships also are important for students. For example, it was often observed that the attachment and identification of a child with a meaningful adult motivates or reinforces a child’s desire to learn, and, thus, argued that schools can and should be redesigned to promote a strong, positive attachment for students to school.The power of out-of-school time (community and peer influences) also helps to explain school performance differences. For example, according to Christenson & Sheridan (2001) positive home influences—especially during the summer months—have been found to differentiate between low and high achievers. In general, family involvement in schooling is associated with many benefits for students that are the kinds of benefits desired by educators. Among those are:
- Improved grades and test scores.
- Positive attitude toward schoolwork.
- Positive behavior.
- Work completion.
- Increased participation in classroom activities.
- Increased attendance.
Moreover, in the absence of parent support and reinforcement, reform efforts focused on school and teacher practices (e.g., new curricula and strategies) have not been as successful in improving achievement.
- Changing demographics of the student population.
The increased cultural diversity of the student population and the presence of non-English speaking parents (level of parent education) has posed a variety of communication challenges. Parents from different ethnic backgrounds may view the purpose of education quite differently than school staff. A growing number of parents have not had the benefit of a positive personal schooling experience. Consequently, they may be unfamiliar with school policies and practices. Less cultural capital makes it more difficult for them to support their children’s learning and to navigate the educational system, particularly at the secondary and tertiary level.
We see that there is a huge role for the collaborative approach to fill and since there is an urgent need to improve students’ performance and achievement, by implication, means that there is need to urgently look at ways to facilitate the family-school relationship. the Institute for Work and Family Integration (IWFI) in trying to bridge this gap organizes the ETP program to help educate both the teachers and Parents on how this collaboration will yield the outcome that both groups desire. This program focus on contemporary realities in our nation and the role the family can play in winning the war on corruption, and building good institutions for sustainable development. Also,
To achieve the United Nations, Sustainable Development Goals; ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all.