As parents and students across the nation make back-to-school preparations amidst uncertainties about classroom readiness and power outages in New Providence, one thing remains certain based on decades of research – that a child’s chances for success in education are greatly improved through parental involvement in the process of learning.
Contrary to popular thinking, it is parental and family involvement in education as opposed to socioeconomic status or school rankings that serves as the leading predictor of positive academic outcomes for students.
Parental involvement has been shown to lead to higher grades, reduced absenteeism, improved social skills and behavior, higher self-esteem and higher high school graduation rates.
And the benefits are not just for the nation’s children. Research findings indicate that parents who are involved in their child’s education develop a better appreciation of the work and role of teachers, build confidence in their parenting abilities, are more responsive to their child’s academic and emotional needs and build a sense of community by becoming involved in the decision-making processes of area schools.
Parental involvement also makes the work of teachers and schools a more positive and beneficial process, as essential lines of communication between parents and teachers are established and programs offered through schools ultimately demonstrate higher levels of performance.
Some parents hold the view that education is the sole responsibility of school and teachers, whereas other parents may shy away from their necessary involvement due to challenges they may encounter in understanding the schoolwork given to their children.
These are areas of concern that educators in Grand Bahama have sought to address through annual parenting forum conferences held by the Grand Bahama Principals and Vice Principals Association (GBPVA).
Their initiative, supported by the Ministry of Education, has featured work by Bahamian educator and researcher Dr. Anica Bowe, who conducted community-based surveys on the level of parental involvement in schools.
“Parents set the foundation in terms of the expectations for children and their aspirations,” Dr. Bowe recently told forum participants.
“Parental involvement is very important in working with schools as well because parents support the work of schools. Teachers cannot do everything; teachers can only do a narrow range of teaching. Parents really are the first teachers of their children. Parents can re-enforce, and even take to the next level, what is happening inside schools.”
In approaching her research, Dr. Ward emphasized the importance of determining the factors that lead to a lack of parental involvement.
Research has pointed to a number of family characteristics including time constraints experienced by working-class families and homes headed by mothers who work full-time.
Attitudes about parental involvement are also rooted in mindsets that children do not need as much parental participation into the junior and high school years as they do in elementary school – leaving older students void of the benefits derived from parents who take an active role in their academic pursuits.
Given that perceptions about the role of the school and of teachers in the educational process have been consistently pegged as a key determinant in parental involvement, Ministry of Education workshops and forums geared at enlightening parents on their importance in the academic process, and on how they can become more involved given their respective family dynamics can yield positive results.
But, of course, parents must choose to attend and in general, must be willing to learn and grow with their children.
With so much time spent these days focusing on things of little substance, let us commit this upcoming school year to devoting more time to creating an atmosphere of involvement and support that will enable our nation’s children to blossom into greatness as human beings and as future leaders in whichever field of endeavor they choose.