Par­ents hold key to whether chil­dren suc­ceed in school

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS - PANYAZA LESUFI Panyaza Lesufi is Gaut­eng MEC for Ed­u­ca­tion

WE IN­TU­ITIVELY avoid the ques­tions about the mean­ing of parental in­volve­ment in ed­u­ca­tion, what it looks like and how to make it hap­pen.

As the 2017 school cal­en­dar gath­ers pace and to­day’s fre­netic world, tech­nol­ogy, con­sumerism, ca­reer par­ents and grow­ing parental re­spon­si­bil­i­ties con­trib­ute to over­full sched­ules, the mes­sage for par­ents couldn’t be clearer: Get in­volved in your child’s ed­u­ca­tion daily, es­tab­lish ex­pec­ta­tions for achieve­ment and con­duct, and com­mu­ni­cate with teach­ers. If par­ents hold true to these sim­ple guide­lines, their chil­dren will blos­som.

We recog­nise the chal­lenges par­ents face in hold­ing down a job, man­ag­ing a house­hold and rais­ing a fam­ily. It seems there aren’t enough hours in the day. Many chil­dren also live with sin­gle par­ents, or are be­ing raised by rel­a­tives or fos­ter par­ents. Still, carv­ing out some time, even if it’s brief, can make a dif­fer­ence. If par­ents ig­nore these sim­ple guide­lines, they place their chil­dren’s fu­ture at risk.

What does parental in­volve­ment mean? Is it go­ing to par­ent-teacher meet­ings? Bak­ing cook­ies to raise funds for the school? Mon­i­tor­ing your chil­dren’s work? Help­ing out in class? Speak­ing up when there’s a prob­lem?

The first but po­tent way for par­ents to be­come en­gaged is to read com­mu­ni­ca­tion from the school that in­cludes a list of the ways in which they can be­come in­volved, such as tak­ing part in lessons or vol­un­teer­ing at sport­ing events.

Ex­perts say the first five years of a child’s life lays the foun­da­tion for suc­cess in school. Yet some chil­dren are de­prived of those build­ing blocks when their par­ents don’t in­vest the time to help them.

Poverty and un­em­ploy­ment of­ten force both par­ents to work, some­times two jobs, leav­ing lit­tle time for the kids. But even rich kids suf­fer when their par­ents don’t place the proper em­pha­sis on school­work.

Many ob­sta­cles might hin­der parental par­tic­i­pa­tion, in­clud­ing a re­luc­tance to be seen to be in­ter­fer­ing in the school’s af­fairs, school per­son­nel’s neg­a­tive at­ti­tudes to­ward par­ents, and parental in­se­cu­ri­ties con­cern­ing schools.

We know that fam­ily in­volve­ment tends to de­cline as chil­dren age.

Par­ents need to be­lieve they can make a dif­fer­ence, and they will not be ex­cluded or in­tim­i­dated be­cause they un­der­stand the prob­lem and want so­lu­tions.

We know there are mul­ti­ple chal­lenges. Many young ado­les­cents be­gin to as­sert their in­de­pen­dence, dis­tance them­selves from par­ents and rely more on peer opin­ion. Also, as youth tran­si­tion from el­e­men­tary to mid­dle school, most par­ents or other pri­mary care­givers face the shift from com­mu­ni­cat­ing with one teacher to juggling mul­ti­ple teach­ers and sub­jects.

De­spite this, it’s es­sen­tial that we un­der­stand the im­por­tance and sig­nif­i­cance of a shared par­ent-teacher re­spon­si­bil­ity.

In spite of so­cio-eco­nomic pres­sures, pupils lucky enough to have in­volved par­ents are more likely to earn higher marks, at­tend school reg­u­larly and grad­u­ate.

While some teach­ers may feel frus­trated by the lack of parental in­volve­ment, our pri­or­ity is to re-in­volve all par­ents. We need to have par­ents work­ing with their chil­dren, com­mu­ni­cat­ing with the teach­ers, and tak­ing part in the schools and class­rooms.

Re­search has shown that par­ents who are part­ners with their child’s school make a pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence in their school per­for­mance. Psy­chol­o­gists and ca­reer coun­sel­lors say the most ac­cu­rate pre­dic­tor of a pupil’s achieve­ment isn’t fam­ily in­come or so­cial sta­tus, but the value a pupil’s fam­ily places on ed­u­ca­tion and the cre­ation of a home en­vi­ron­ment that en­cour­ages learn­ing.

There are tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances that make com­mu­ni­ca­tion eas­ier and quicker.

Par­ents and teach­ers may choose from an ar­ray of modes to stay in touch. Many schools have in­cor­po­rated email, web­sites and elec­tronic news­let­ters to dis­sem­i­nate in­for­ma­tion. Oth­ers have es­tab­lished par­ent por­tals. Some schools text fam­i­lies re­gard­ing ab­sences or home­work and oth­ers use on­line so­cial net­works.

What hap­pens be­fore and af­ter class is as im­por­tant as school.

The best in­vest­ment we can make in our chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion is our at­ten­tion, time, en­cour­age­ment and in­volve­ment.

Par­ents hold the key to whether their chil­dren suc­ceed or fail in school.

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