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Early Childhood Education And Parental Involvement

It cannot be taken away that the family is the most important institution in rearing and educating a child. The family provides not only the most fundamental support but it also provides the lifelong connection for which the child belongs. Its importance has been repeatedly stressed in numerous literatures but because of its commonality, it is continuously being underscored.

Urie Bronfenbrenner (1979), an advocate of parent participation in the classroom, wrote “the family seems to be the most effective and economical system for fostering and sustaining the child’s development. Without family involvement, intervention is likely to be unsuccessful, and what few effects are achieved are likely to disappear once the intervention is discontinued.” Through a diagram that replicates the ripples of water, he explains how different systems surrounding the child influences that child and to what degree. He believes that the family, being the closest to the child, has the most influence on him, followed by the school and peers and then by the culture and community. With this idea, we educators should understand the complex systems from which our children belong, as well as to take advantage of these systems in order to successfully educate our children. It is also our task to bridge the gap between these systems by providing means to engage them as well in the task of educating the child.

Parental Involvement is defined as "parental participation in the educational processes and experiences of their children (Jeynes, 2005).” The usual involvement parents do is by helping their children with their homework, reading to their children and participation in some school events. Parental participation comes in many forms. The Harvard Family Research Project (HFRP, 2003) comprehensively listed these forms as: Parenting, Home-School Relationship, Responsibility for Learning, Participation in Home Visitation Program, Parent Leadership, Participation in School Decision Making, Community Organization and Participation in School Programs.

HFRP believes that with these parental participation comes benefits that contribute to the development of the child. Such benefits are: Social competence, Cognitive Development, Communication Skills, Literacy Development, Vocabulary Growth, Expressive Language, Comprehension Skills, Positive Engagement with Peers, Adults, and Learning, School Readiness and Overall Academic Achievement. These are just some of the many benefits yet to be discovered because of parental involvement. These benefits have been cited repeatedly in the many studies that have been conducted on parental involvement. Research showed that children whose parents are actively involved in their children's education perform better in reading, writing, mathematics, behavior and social interactions (Grolnick, et al, 1994, 1997; Dempsey & Sandler, 1995, 1997; Bailey, Silvern, & Brabham, 2004; Domina, 2005; Fiala & Sheridan, 2003; Flouri, 2004; Li, 2006; Pearce, Jones, & Schwab-Stone, 2003; Reutzal, Fawson, & Smith, 2006; Senechal, 2006; St. Clair & Jackson, 2006; Sy & Schulenberg, 2005; Yan & Lin, 2005, Hill & Taylor, 2004).

Research also showed that parents do not only directly help, support and influence their children's education, they also indirectly motivate their children to achieve (Gonzalez-DeHass et al., 2005, Epstein, 1995, 2001, 2005; Holman, 1997; St. Clair & Jackson, 2006; Sy & Schulenberg, 2005; Yan & Lin, 2005; Currie & Thomas, 1999; Daniel-White, 2002; Sy, 2006, Lareau, 2000, Grolnick & Slowiaczek, 1994 ). This means that even in the most minimal means of participating in our children’s education, we still influence them to achieve more by simply setting ourselves as their standards for achievement.

On the other hand, it is also found that the non-participation of parents, which had been equated to negative attitude, low-income, ethnicity, lack of time, low level of educational achievement and structure, is not always the case (Bernhard et al, 1998; Gale, 2004). It was found that School and teacher practices were the strongest predictor of parental involvement. Other predictors were parental beliefs, perceptions, aspirations and ease of communication with school (Dauber & Epstein, 1993).

Earlier studies used to focus on what parents are supposed to do when it comes to involving themselves in their children’s education. And parents usually want to do something to help their children. And most of the time they feel that they want to do something but are not given the chance to do so (Bernhard et al, 1998). Often times as well, their efforts fall in the superficial level as they seem not able to penetrate into the school system. Parent Involvement is a neglected garden (Delisio, 2010). Schools acknowledge the importance of parental participation, however they do have not set up a whole program or policies for it. They let it function but are indifferent whether parents achieve outcomes or not.

It used to be thought that Parental Involvement was all about parents but actually it is all about children’s success (Dr. Joyce Epstein, Center on School, Family and Community Partnership). Parents are ready to function; the schools should therefore ready themselves to receive what parents have to offer. It is now all about what schools should do to make it equitable and accessible to families. They should foster a partnership that involves more than just the routine parent-teacher conferences and one-way communication; it should be a partnership that is ongoing, consistent, progressive, collaborative and beneficial.

Dr. Joyce Epstein lists some obstacles to parental involvement: Teachers attitudes and beliefs, Teachers are not trained to deal with parents, Engaging with them is one of their greatest challenges, One-way communication between parents and schools, There are no formal programs that encourages Parental Involvement, Bureaucracies in the schools, No chance for parents to communicate their side, Parents should be given a chance for them to define their roles and the amount of involvement they can give, Poor information to parents, Changing school policies and Poor Outreach Programs (Epstein & Daubner, 1991; Epstein 1995). These are just some of the issues the schools have to address in order to establish a good parental involvement program.

In the Philippines, schools have separately started their own parental involvement programs but the extent of which and the outcomes achieved have not been documented. There exists what is known as the School-Based Management Approach (SBM), which encourages parental involvement in decision-making in schools. Some have established Local School Boards involving parents but these set ups have been said to be problematic as they try to address more pressing issues the schools are facing. There are also claims that these set ups are being monopolized highly by school authorities.

The Philippines as well has adopted the Parent Teacher Association Program (PTA). In other countries, the PTA has formed a set of standards (National Standards for Parent/Family Involvement Programs) for their members to follow and have been actively implementing these standards. In the Philippines, however, these standards have not been adopted and cannot be fully stated that they are being implemented properly. These standards include (Parent Teacher Association, 1997):

Standard I: Communicating—Communication between home and school

is regular, two-way, and meaningful.

Standard II: Parenting—Parenting skills are promoted and supported.

Standard III: Student Learning—Parents play an integral role in assisting

student learning.

Standard IV: Volunteering—Parents are welcome in the school, and their

support and assistance are sought.

Standard V: School Decision Making and Advocacy—Parents are full

partners in the decisions that affect children and families.

Standard VI: Collaborating with Community—Community resources are

used to strengthen schools, families, and student learning.

There have also been programs like the Head Start Program adopted by Education Centers where parents act as teacher aides, but again, these programs have not been documented properly, as well as outcomes of the said programs. There have also been studies that further support how Parental Involvement brings benefits to student achievement. In one of the studies, the researcher showed how teaching Approach, parental Involvement and autonomy are considered predictors of achievement (Alvaera et al, 2009). In another research involving case studies, parental Involvement in Improving learning outcomes was also subjected to scrutiny (San Antonio et al, 2008). Based on this initial investigation on the case for the Philippines, the country is still young in terms of research on this field and in terms of the programs that schools have set up to include parents in their policies.

In other countries like Cuba, New Zealand, Australia and the United States, they have been able to set up programs to involve parents that are being carried as a district-wide project to a nationwide policy for schools. The Children’s Circle (2002) in Cuba created the “Educate Your Child Program.” This program focuses on the fundamental areas of development of children. They firmly recognize the effects of family on education, how sensitizing the community and mobilizing community resources increases awareness, sentiments and sense of belongingness. This program is being replicated in Ecuador and the Dominican Republic and is highly supported by UNICEF.

In a study that featured New Zealand, it showed how parental involvement was being advocated and pushed forward in inclusive primary schools. The study assessed the conditions of parental involvement and tried to show obstacles they are experiencing, and tried to extensively define the roles of parents in their institutions (Hornby, 2010). In Australia, parental involvement is a precondition for schools and child care centers to receive government funding. In a study proposed by the Quality Improvement and Accreditation Scheme (QIAS), they tried to assess parental involvement in the country through discussion and disclosure amongst the major players involved. They conclude that schools and parents must meet in between for the programs to succeed (McNaughton, 2001).

In Atlanta, they came up with a Parental Involvement Task Force that would identify ways to increase parental involvement in their schools with the aim of boosting student achievement. They tried to explore all kinds of parental involvement (Harris 2007). Kraft-Sayre & Pianta (2000) also described a theoretical framework for developing schools and programs to come up with a transition team. This undertaking recognizes the contributions that families can make on their children as they move to kindergarten. They make these families part of the transition team to assist them in educating the children.

Finally, HFRP (2011) named various undertakings making use of the Data Support Pathways of Engagement to communicate to parents about their children’s short and long term development and academic progress. Some of these programs are ARIS Parent Link in New York that provides tutorial for parents to interpret scores and attitudes of their children. Another is Tools of Mind in Denver, which highly employs discussion between parents and teachers where they come up with play plans for their children. Another is the Academic Parent-Teacher Teams in Phoenix, wherein parents and teachers would set up a sixty (60)-day goal program for their children and for themselves. Another is the Measures of Academic Programs in San Diego, where teachers and parents meet up to set family goals and map these goals for the families. And finally, the Family-School Partnership in Reno, where teachers and parents would often meet up to discuss absences, scores and the achievements of their children.

And since such programs are still inexistent in the Philippines, it is possible to come up with a research that would initialize such undertakings to make it possible for the country to reap benefits from parental involvement, which is ever present in its system and its culture being highly family-oriented. This research will aim to develop a Case Study for the Philippines, to assess Parental Involvement in different schools, to show the programs they have established on their own and to develop a framework based on different case studies in different schools to help us and guide us to tend the “Parental Involvement Garden.”

In this initial investigation I found that in order for a Parental Involvement program to work in the Philippines it should be contextualized, incorporating culture and the attitudes of parents and schools in this country. The framework shared by Dr. Joyce Epstein (1995) looks comprehensive enough to cover the different levels of parental involvement and can be adopted and localized to suit the Philippine settings. This framework includes: Parenting, Communicating, Volunteering, Learning at Home, Decision-Making and Collaborating with Community. However, the study should be able to account for the many issues that schools will be faced with when such programs are to be implemented. One such issue is the readiness of schools to share functions such as decision-making. Another is the varying school policies that this new program will have to work with and fit. Another thing to be considered are the programs already in existence. Further more, this program should explicitly discuss what are expected of the parents, to what extent their involvement should be and for the parents to define their roles themselves.

In a Follow Through Program (Olmsted, 1991) that focuses on advocacy, decision making and instruction, set up in the United States, they suggested the following to be considered for the implementation of a parental involvement program: to discuss attitudes about parent involvement with school personnel, to establish program goals that meet the needs of the school and of the families, to include parents and school personnel in governing the program, to include several types of parent involvement activities, to utilize home visits to involve parents who do not respond to invitations or messages from schools, to increase attendance at parent meetings through a variety of means and to implement a parent-as-a-teacher component. Again, the study should encourage schools and parents to foster a partnership that involves more than just the routine parent-teacher conferences and one-way communication; it should be a partnership that is ongoing, consistent, progressive, collaborative and beneficial.

Our Parental Involvement Programs should start from the early years, when parents are most eager to be part of their children’s education, when parental participation have the most influence and when policies set up would really effect change. Parental involvement should be considered as one of the best assets of the school. It is not only a source of funds but is a source of motivation for which our children will surely benefit from not only in terms of their educational achievement and passion to learn but also in terms of their lifelong success. In the words of Professor Charles Desforges, “at the age of seven parental influences on learning is six times that of the school. At the age of eleven or twelve parental influence on learning is 30 per cent greater than that of the school. After the age of twelve, children – as they grow and mature – become their own greatest influence. At no point does the school have the greatest influence. It is what parents do, not who they are, that matters”

(LPPA, 2010).

April 8, 2011

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