How Involved Should Parents Be in Education?

How Involved Should Parents Be in Education?
By C Hoppe
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Studies have continually shown that children with parents who take an active role in their education obtain better grades and long term academic achievements, than those who don't.

But, what does parental involvement in a child's education entail? Is it simply being on hand to help with homework or attending parents' night once or twice a year?

One well known case of positive academic results through parental engagement is that of the Chinese/Korean parenting phenomenon. The runaway success of which, was recently reported here.

However, research into why Chinese and Korean students are so much more successful than their counterparts, is markedly different from the Far Eastern stereo-type made famous by Amy Chua's (2011) book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.  In fact, studies have shown that Chua's 'authoritarian' style of parenting is actually in the minority within the Chinese community, and that most families practice 'supportive,' and not, 'tiger' parenting.

Part of supportive parenting means becoming an active role model, facilitator, guide and mentor. It's not just about helping with homework, but really getting behind the child to encourage and motivate on a daily basis. Neglect the basics, and the effects are not only dramatic but far reaching, as one Dubai teacher describes.

"I had a student last year who never brought in forms, did homework or participated in class. When I organised a meeting with the mum, she told me her sister had passed away three months before and that through grief she had basically stopped parenting. So the poor child, who'd had decent grades in previous years, almost failed."

By making learning part of life outside the school gates, parents can significantly improve a child's overall grades. Whether that's fun life skills for preschoolers like baking, playing or helping find groceries in the supermarket.

For kids in primary school, simple ideas like utilising what they're working on in class and applying it to real world situations works well. And, as children mature, parental involvement evolves into becoming more of a coach and mentor, while helping organise their time and supporting their interests.

Dubai mum Hina Ikram says,"I don't just depend on homework, as its always very little, I try to give my son maths and English worksheets which I get from educational sites on the net and activity books from local bookshops."

Parents who remain engaged with their child's progress and development have more successful children. This applies not just in formal education, but also means taking the time to discover how their child learns, what they enjoy and what motivates them.

"We approach Edwina's homework like a project and have her as a team leader, some days are good while others are tough. Her handwriting, grammar, and especially her confidence has improved so much because of the "project" ambiance we've created," says mum, Divine Bijurenda.

Studies show reading with children not only improves their language and communication skills, logical thinking, imagination, concentration and discipline, but also improves the parent/child relationship. And, it doesn't stop there, parents should ideally be 'reading mentors' too, ensuring children see them reading regularly and enjoying books.

Simi Rajesh says, "I believe in laying the foundation from a very young age. I used to read to my kids when I was pregnant and still continue today. If you can develop a reading habit from a young age- half the job is done. This helps them immensely when they start school."

Getting involved with the school is another way parents can demonstrate to children that they not only value, but enjoy being part of their education.

"I've offered to volunteer in the school to help with reading. I did speak to my son about volunteering first, to see if he was OK with it, and that he really understood that it was to help others learn. I believe open discourse with kids about education in general is a good thing," says Zoe Stott mum to three year old Gethin.

And, it's not just about nourishing the intellect either, nutrition is equally as important, as mum and nutritionist Nisa Yousafizi points out. "We can't expect optimum brain or body functions if we feed our children food that impacts them negatively. Two major culprits are sugar and processed foods. Sugar has been shown to have similar effects on a young child's brain as cocaine! While additives in processed foods often cause lethargy and/or hyperactivity, just imagine how these affect a child at school or at the homework table?"


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