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2.1 Parental Involvement
2.1.1 Definition of Parental Involvement
Parental involvement is believed to be an important strategy in the advancement of the quality of education. Parental involvement as such may be defined in different ways. According to Althoff (2010) parental involvement refers to the amount of participation a parent has when it comes to schooling and her child's life. (Abdullah, Seedee, Alzaidiyeen, Al-Shabatat, Alzeydeen, Al-Awabdeh, 2011) define parental involvement as the activities occurring between a parent and a child or between a parent and teachers at school that may contribute to the child's educational outcomes and development.
NCLB (2001) described parental involvement as regular participation of parents, a two-way process, and meaningful communication involving student academic learning and other school activities including: Assisting their child's learning; (b) Being actively involved in their child's education at school; (c) Serving as full partners in their child's education and being included, as appropriate, in decision-making and on advisory committees to assist in the education of their child; and (d) The carrying out of other activities such as those described in section 1118 of the ESEA" Section 9101(32).
Liontos (1992) mentions recent beliefs about parents and families that schools should consider when involving themselves in the education to their children: "1) All families have strengths, 2) parents can learn new techniques, 3) parents have important perspectives about their children, 4) most parents really care about their children, 5) cultural differences are both valid and valuable, and 6) many family forms exist and are legitimate" (pp. 30-31).
2.1.2 Family Involvement
Regardless of how they are able to demonstrate their investment, the notion that families play a very important role in creating a school that provides a nurturing and safe environment for their children is becoming widely accepted (Epstein et al., 1997).
Families provide the social, cultural, and emotional supports that youth need to function well in school. Schools provide opportunities for children's positive interactions with significant adults and other adolescents to enhance their home experiences and to support their continued development and related learning (Comer & Haynes, 1991).
According to Davies (1991) parental involvement shifts from "parent focus to family focus, family to community agencies, school to home/neighborhood setting, eager parents to hard-to reach families, teachers/administrators agendas to family priorities, and deficit view of urban families to emphasis on inherent strengths of families". He further explains that even though non-traditional families are much more common nowadays than they were in the 1950s, alternative family structures are effective and should be recognised by the school.
The paradigm 'Changing Definitions of Parental involvement' according to Davies(1991) is as follows: from Parent Focus to Family Focus; from school to home or neighbourhood setting; from eager parents to hard to reach families; from teacher/administrator agenda to family priorities; from deficit view of urban families to emphasis on inherent strengths of families. Davies (1991) mentioned that non-traditional family units are getting more common, but the alternative family structures are effective and should be recognised as they do impact in the education and performance of students.
2.1.3 Types of parental involvement
Fan and Chen (2001) in their meta-analysis found that researchers commonly conceptualised parental involvement as having multiple dimensions. Research conducted over a number of years have proved that there are numerous types of parenting practices associated with positive school-related academic and social competencies. These are: (a) parental participation in school-related activities, for instance monitoring homework and attending parent-teacher association meetings (Desimone, 1999; Keith et al., 1993; Steinberg, Lamborn, Dornbusch & Darling, 1992); (b) parental encouragement of positive school behaviors (Atkinson & Forehand, 1979; Barth, 1979; Kelley, 1952; Schumaker, Hovell, & Sherman, 1977; Seginer, 1983); and (c) parental expectations for
achievement and attainment (Ainley, Foreman, & Sheret,1991; Fan & Chen, 2001; Scott-Jones, 1995; Seginer).
Similarly, Epstein (2001) has distinguished six types of parental involvement namely: parenting; communication; volunteering; home tutoring; involvement in decision-making; and, collaboration with the community. Epstein's model presents family, school and community as overlapping spheres of influence, the congruence of which is of considerable importance for the optimal development of children.
2.2 The effect of parental involvement on children's achievements
It is generally believed that the parents do play an important role in the education of their children and there is now an extensive research literature indicating that parental involvement is advantageous for children of all ages (Cox 2005; Desforges and Abouchaar 2003; Eccles and Harold 1993; Epstein 2001). Research has shown that one of the most promising ways to increase students' achievement is to involve their families (Chavkin, 1993; Henderson & Berla, 1994). Herbert Walberg (1984) found that family participation in education was twice as predictive of academic learning as family socioeconomic status. Establishing partnerships with families has many benefits for schools and families, but Epstein says, "the main reason to create such partnerships is to help all youngsters succeed in school and in later life" (1995, p. 701).
When parents participate in their children's schooling, students may experience more academic and social success. Epstein (2001) suggests that parents who are informed and involved in their children's school can positively impact their child's attitude and performance. Drawing a causal link between parental involvement and student achievement is challenging; much of the research on parent involvement and student performance is therefore correlational (Scott Stein & Thorkildsen, 1999). Although the impact of parental involvement is dependent on a number of contextual variables, there are many advantages attributed to parental involvement.
Involvement at home, especially parents discussing school activities and helping children plan their programs, has the strongest impact on academic achievement (Sui-Chu & Willms, 1996; VanVoorhis, 2003). Researchers have also found that parent-child discussion about school helps improve academic achievement and reduce problematic behavior (Epstein & Sheldon, 2002; McNeal, 1999; Sheldon & Epstein, 2005). McLaughlin and Shields (1986), for example, reported that parents can contribute to improved student achievement through their involvement in (a) the selection of appropriate reading materials, (b) targeting educational services, and (c) the use of particular pedagogical strategies. Clark (1983) found a correlation between achievement in reading and mathematics and the number of books at home.
Parent involvement is absolutely essential to student achievement in school and in life say (Campbell & Glasgow, 2010). The overwhelming studies and research indicate that there are indeed positive academic outcomes stemming from parental involvement with benefits beginning in the early childhood throughout adolescence and beyond (Henderson & Mapp, 2002; Patrikakou, Weisberg, Redding, & Walberg, 2005).
Buchmann and Dalton (2002) suggest a possible linkage between differences in institutional contexts of educational system and variation in the effect of parental involvement on children's educational outcomes while examining variation across 12 countries in the effect of mother's and peers' attitudes toward academic performance on educational aspiration among middle-school (lower secondary school) students. The comparisons across 12 countries indicate significant variation in the influence of parental attitude on children's educational aspiration across countries with different structural features of educational system.
2.3 Factors affecting Students' Academic Achievements
The students' performance or academic achievement plays an important role in producing the good quality school leavers who will become good manpower for any country.
There are actually numerous factors that affect the performance and achievement of students. Parents influence their children's academic achievement (Spera, 2005). High family socioeconomic status, positive parenting practices, positive aspects of parents' personality, and high marital quality are associated with school success (Harold, Aitken, & Shelton, 2007; Heaven & Newbury, 2004; Robertson & Reynolds, 2010). Children whose parents who actively promote learning in the home more positively engage in relationships outside the home and in learning (Marchant, Paulson, & Rothlisberg, 2001), perhaps because these parents help children approach learning environments more positively. The premise that home environment risks, such as negative parenting (Clark, Dogan, & Akbar, 2003), a chaotic household (Brown & Low, 2008), parents' low educational attainment or income level (Davis-Kean, 2005), and single-parent family structure (Zill, 1996), are correlates of poor academic functioning is also well supported.
According to a report on Monitoring Learning Achievement (1999) the Determinants of child's performance were identified to be as follows: Socio-economic status of the child's family had a very strong impact on achievement at school. (b) Parental education level and parents' opinion about education were decisive factors affecting performance of the children at school. (c) The child who had access to learning through technology and through materials at home was more likely to do better at school. (d) Pupils who had a positive attitude to school and teachers as well as those who used English to communicate performed better on the tests. (e) Children who had more experienced teachers at school and who were more frequently assessed became better learners.
2.3.1 Student Demographics and Students' Achievement
Students from ethnic minority backgrounds and low income families are more at risk for poor school outcomes and are becoming an increasing share of the student population. Many studies have linked the educational disadvantage of minority students to a combination of out-of-school factors, many of which center on family characteristics, such as poverty and parents' education. Linn (2005) says that prior achievement or other relevant characteristics of the student body may help to explain current levels of achievement while (Carlson, 2002; Ponisciak & Bryk, 2005) point out that when large scale assessments are used as the sole measure of accountability, the characteristics of the school's clientele are confounded with change that is directly attributable to the effectiveness of the school producing biased estimates of school effects.
Children coming from middle-class family may have a head start given their higher social position and income may lead to better quality housing, more availability of books and study facilities at home such as their own room, internet access facility as well as the ability to afford private tuition. According to the University of Mauritius study on private tuition (1989), children from better off families take more tuition than students from poor families and they tend to perform better.
A better measure of a school's effect on student achievement should account for the nature of students in the schools as well as the characteristics of the schools themselves. For example the correlation according to Sirin (2005) between socio-economic status and achievement tends to be approximately 0.30 at the student level. When aggregated to the school level, the correlation between socio-economic and academic achievement is approximately 0.60 (Sirin, 2005), though that correlation has been estimated to be even higher (0.73) in an earlier meta-analysis (White, 1982).
2.3.2 School Leadership and Students' Achievement
Studies have revealed that strong leaders are critical to successful learning environments (Briggs & Wohlstetter, 2003; Hallinger, Bickman, & Davis, 1996; Haycock, Jerald, & Huang, 2001; Jesse, Davis, & Pokorny, 2004; McGee, 2004; Muijs, Harris, Chapman, Stoll, & Russ, 2004; Murphy, 2004; Scribner & Scribner, 2001; Snipes, 2004; Yau, 2002). There are different characteristics of strong leaders that have been mentioned in the literature: Leaders have a clear vision for their schools that is continuously communicated to school staff and parents (Cole-Henderson, 2000; EdSource, 2006; Jesse et al., 2004); they have high expectations for all students (Cole-Henderson, 2000; EdSource, 2006; McGee, 2004; Scribner et al., 2001); and they are able to translate their vision and expectations into concrete goals for teachers by aligning curriculum with state standards and standardized tests (EdSource, 2006; Education Trust, 2003).
2.3.3 School Systems and Students' Achievement
In many countries, including Mauritius to some extent, school systems are tracked where students are assigned to different school types based on their prior performance. These tracks range from purely academic tracks to vocational tracks and prepare students for different educational and labor market destinations (Marks, Cresswell, & Ainley, 2006; Reyes, 2010). In general most secondary school systems maintain a distinction between academic and vocational education. The specifics may be different from place to place, but in most countries academic education prepares students for college or for a university whereas vocational education prepares them for immediate entry into the labor market (Shavit, & Blossfeld 1993). Schools may be involved in the socio-economic inequalities in education in a number of ways. Wealthy families can afford a superior education for their children by sending them to fee-paying private schools. In countries with tracked school systems, the allocation of students to the more academic school tracks may be biased towards students from higher socioeconomic backgrounds.
2.3.5 Parental Involvement and Students' Achievement
Studies on the influence of parenting on school outcomes have mainly focused on specific parental practices such as involvement in their child's education, mostly in relation to academic achievement and rarely in relation to school dropout (McNeal, 1999; Rumherger, 1995). Studies conducted among specific grades and subject areas support the contention that parental involvement can influence students' academic achievement regardless of the student's age or subject. For example, Stegelin (2003), Wirtz & Schumacher (2003), and Hertz-Lazarowitz & Horovitz (2002) focused on early childhood education and literacy, noting a link between families who engage in literacy activities at home and their children's success with reading and writing.
Henderson and Berla (1994) say that the most accurate predictor of a student's achievement in school is not income or social status but the extent to which that student's family is able to create a home environment that encourages learning; express high but not unrealistic expectations for their children's achievement and future careers and become involved in their children's education at school and in the community.
There exists an extensive research literature indicating that Parental Involvement is advantageous for children. This includes home-based Parental involvement such as listening to children read and supervision of homework as well as school-based Parental Involvement such as attending parent education workshops and parent-teacher meetings. The effectiveness of both home-based and school-based Parental Involvement in facilitating academic achievement has been reported by several reviews and meta-analyses of the literature (Fan and Chen 2001; Henderson and Mapp 2002; Jeynes 2005, 2007; Pomerantz, Moorman, and Litwack 2007).
Mariaye (2008) has found that higher levels of education of parents are often related to better provision of financial resources, thus leading to achievement of children.
2.4 Barriers to parental involvement
Though there is much importance attached to parental involvement it is still being ignored in many schools. Lazar and Slostad (1999) believe that parents are willing to get involved in the education of their children, but the negative perceptions of parents persist because teacher education programs do not educate teachers to work with parents. Foster and Loven (1992) also shared that the major explanation for this, according to researchers, is the fact that "very little attention is given to preparing teachers to work with parents and other adults" (Lazar, 1999, p. 207). According to Lazar and Slostad, (1999) "the way parents viewed their roles was shaped by the circumstances and norms of particular cultures" and "their beliefs about their own effectiveness as teachers or tutors".
Epstein (1991) found out that teachers had doubts whether they could motivate parents to become more involved even though they thought that parental involvement would improve students' achievement. Teachers lack the attitudes, knowledge, skills, and strategies needed to collaborate with families leading to a weak school-family partnership (De Acosta, 1996; Epstein & Dauber, 1991; Foster & Loven, 1992; Greenwood & Hickman, 1991; Midkiff & Lawler-Prince, 1992; Williams,1992).
Major barriers to parental involvement in schools include the school environment, school culture, time constraint, changing demographics and employment patterns, and the lack of teacher preparation in involving parents in their children's schooling (New Skills for Schools, 1997; National PTA, 1997).
2.5 Overcoming barriers to parental involvement
Strategies for overcoming barriers to parental involvement in schools include overcoming time and resource constraints, providing information and training to parents and school staff, restructuring schools to support family involvement, bridging school-family differences, getting external supports for partnerships, meeting families' basic needs, providing flexible times and places for parental involvement, and helping staff communication with parents (The U.S. Department of Education, 2004; Family Involvement in Children's Education - October 1997).
The various barriers to Parental involvement can be categorised by adapting Epstein's (2001) framework of overlapping spheres of influence focused on the three areas of family, school and community.
2.5.1 Parents' beliefs about Parental Involvement
Parents' beliefs about various issues can act as barriers to effective parental involvement. Firstly, the way that parents view their role in the education of their children is crucial. Parents who believe that their role is only to get children to school, which then takes over responsibility for their education, will not be willing to be actively involved in either school-based or home-based parental involvement. Hoover-Dempsey and Sandler (1997) reported that this attitude is more prevalent in some communities and national cultures than others, but that there is considerable variation within these. For example, Clark (1983), in his research on high achieving students from low-income black families, found that what distinguished the parents of these students from others at the school was that they believed that they should be involved in their children's education, by both supporting their learning at home and interacting constructively with schools. Clark found that parents of high achieving students had a greater belief than the other parents that they could effectively help their children to do better at school.
2.5.2 Parents' perceptions of invitations for involvement
One other potential barrier to parental involvement is parents' perceptions of the level of explicit and implicit invitations for involvement. According to Hoover-Dempsey and Sandler (1997) when parents think that Parental Involvement is not valued by teachers or schools they are less likely to get involved. Thus, parents' perceptions of invitations from schools are considered crucial in developing effective parental involvement. Epstein (2001) has found that parents are most effectively involved when teachers actively encourage them to get involved. Eccles and Harold (1993) believe that teachers with positive, facilitating attitudes toward involving parents encourage more parents to become involved and increase the effectiveness of parental involvement. When parents perceive that teachers are not open to involve them, there tends to be a major barrier to parental involvement. Similarly, when schools are welcoming to parents and make it clear that they value parental involvement, the schools develop more effective parental involvement than schools that do not appear inviting to parents. Secondary schools are often seen by parents as large bureaucratic organisations which are not welcoming to parents, which is considered to be one of the reasons why there is a tendency for higher levels of parental involvement in primary than secondary schools (Eccles and Harold 1993).
2.5.3 Parents Level of Education
Parents' level of education will influence their views on whether they have sufficient skills and knowledge to engage in different aspects of parental involvement (Green et al. 2007). For example, parents who have not completed secondary school themselves may be diffident about helping their children with homework once the latter get to secondary school. Also, parents who do not have a university degree may feel in some ways inferior to teachers who they know are better qualified than them and therefore be reluctant to work closely with the teachers.
In general, children of parents with higher levels of education perform better, on average, on assessments of student achievement.
2.5.4 Parent current life status
Family circumstances can be major barriers to parental involvement. For example, single parents and those with young families or large families may find it difficult to get involved in education of their children because of their responsibilities. Parents' work situations can also be a factor. When parents are unemployed money could be an issue as they may not be able to afford a car or to pay babysitters in order to get to school meetings. For parents with jobs, whether both parents work and the kind of jobs they have may be issues. When both parents work they will have less time to devote for both home-based and school-based parental involvement. Similarly while some jobs allow little flexibility for taking time off for school-based parental involvement, other jobs may leave parents too tired at the end of the day to help children with homework (Catsambis 2001; Green et al. 2007).
2.5.5 Class, ethnicity and gender
There exist also barriers regarding to class, ethnicity and gender of parents that account for the difference between rhetoric and reality in parental involvement. Reay (1998) suggests that it is those parents who possess cultural capital which matches that generally valued by schools. In contrast, working-class parents, although they possess their own undervalued cultural capital, are aware of the difference between the cultural capital they possess and that of teachers. Reay (1998) concludes that, for working-class families, home-school relationships are about separateness, whereas for middle-class families they are about interconnectedness, and this difference shapes their respective attitudes towards parental involvement.
The barriers related to ethnicity and culture also play an important role. According to a report by Koki and Lee (1998) some of the issues involved in parental involvement for parents in New Zealand who have come from the Pacific Islands. They make the point that it is impossible to understand these issues outside of the context of the history of Pacific education and cultural tradition, but the reality is that parental involvement programmes typically pay scant regard to these issues.
2.5.6 Learning difficulties and disabilities
The performance of at school can be both a barrier or facilitating factor for parental involvement. According to Eccles and Harold (1993) when children are struggling with their school work, due to learning difficulties or disabilities, then parents are generally more inclined to be active in parental involvement activities. Many authorities on special needs education consider that involving parents is an essential aspect of effective education for children with disabilities or learning difficulties (Hornby 1995; Seligman 2000). The involvement of parents is required for the process of implementing individual education programmes and this facilitates parental involvement for many parents whose children have learning difficulties or disabilities. But this is not always the case as there are many possible areas for disagreement between schools and parents of children with learning difficulties or disabilities, which can then act as barriers to effective parental involvement. For instance, when parents consider that their children can achieve more academically or when teachers want more support from parents in backing up at home what children are working on at school (Seligman 2000).
2.6 Strategies to involve parents
To achieve more parental involvement, the school or teachers can help to adjust to parents' work schedules, interests, and special abilities to involve them in their child's education
Parents can be involved in their child's schooling in many ways. One way teachers can get these parents involved is by providing them information about parenting practices. Parents with children with behavior problems are interested in learning about specialised reinforcement and discipline techniques that can be applied in their home. Research has shown that students who are disruptive in schools are also disruptive at home (Walker et al., 1995). Teachers can be useful by providing suggestions on how to teach specific skills at home. Parents who learn new parenting skills and teach their child at home are making positive contributions to their child's education.
Encouraging parents to communicate with the school about important information about their child is another way parents can be involved. Darch, Craig, Miao, Yu, Shippen, and Peggy(2004) recommend that teachers ask parents to discuss their child's behaviour at home, his or her attitudes about school and learning, and whether there are home problems impacting the child's behavior at school. It is helpful if teachers ask parents about their expectations about their child's performance.
Darch et al.,(2004) also suggest that one role that some parents can play is to provide instructional or management support in the classroom. For example, parents can be tutors for their own child or other students in the classroom. Also, parents can serve by grading papers, participating in field trips, and reading to groups of students. The advantages of including parents in these activities are many. Parents' visibility in the classroom can be helpful in managing children. Also, if parents can provide instructional support, the improved learning performances of students will have a positive impact on their classroom behavior.
According to Darch et al, (2004) parents can also be involved in their child's school program by providing instructional and management support in their homes. Teachers may ask parents to allocate time for their child's homework, provide instructional support for academic assignments, and carry out home-based reinforcement programs. For parents to effectively take this role, they must be willing to participate and must have skills to implement home-based programs. However, as Hoover-Demsey and Sandler (1997) point out, many parents do not see the importance of taking an active role in their child's education. Thus, teachers must provide parents with clear guidelines on how they can be helpful at home and, if necessary, information on how to implement instructional and management strategies at home. An advantage of these activities is that the child is provided extra instruction at home that leads to more successful learning and motivation in the classroom.
2.6.5 School-Wide Involvement
Teachers can suggest to parents that they be involved in school-wide activities. (Darch et al., 2004). The goal is to link parents to activities beyond their child's classroom: parents can be involved in PTA meetings, school-wide parent advisory councils, volunteer to work in the school office, and participate on a school-wide discipline committee. The advantages of linking parents into school wide activities are obvious. The presence of parents throughout the school is related to higher levels of student achievement and decreases school-wide disruptive behaviors. Parents involved with school-wide activities become more supportive of teachers and school policy.
2.7 How do schools involve parents?
According to Hanke (2006) lack of parental involvement is due to lack of helpful information to parents. Emails, phone, letters, newsletters and personal contacts can be made by schools to reach out to parents. If schools communicate with parents regularly and consistently using the various means, the gap between school and parental involvement will be reduced.
Based on the recent report on the Commonwealth conference on education (2012) the technology is available for ICT to be the foundation for change in education provisioning: from the classroom to the ministerial committee room; from the way teachers relate to their students, to the increasing of parental involvement in schools. Students' expectations and achievement will increase if involvement are identified by Epstein and associate (1997): parenting, communicating, volunteering, learning at home, decision making, and collaborating with the community.
Reenay and Vivian (2007) have explained that even though the invention of new technologies has made it easier for schools to reach out to parents (through emails, cell phones and internet websites), the use of traditional methods in communication has been found to be an effective way for schools to communicate with parents, but this has been limited in use by schools because of time constraints Despite the fact that technology is a tool providing new channels for communication, studies have shown that parents and teachers find difficulty in using them or lack access to them (Weifeng & Jialing, 2007; Blanchard, 1997).