Tomorrows communities will be built by todays youth. To this end, the type of society that we are desirous of creating in the future will be based on the morals, attitudes and values we instil and encourage in our children, and the accomplishments and achievements they make in life [Harris 1998]. Homo sapiens, the human being is a social animal, and like all social animals, his development does not occur in isolation. Rather, this development is characterized by an interaction between him and his environment. In fact, the development of the Homo sapiens or the "modern man" is so highly influenced by the interaction of social institutions, that their absence produces socially maladjusted and or emotionally disturbed individuals. This phenomenon is very much evident in cases where children have grown up without human interaction, and are found many years later (Weitlin) (Laming).
Many studies have been conducted to determine which of the four (4) various social institutions - the family, the school, peer circles, or the community - play the greatest or the most pivotal role in determining students' achievements in life (). A deeper look at the literature has revealed that student's achievements are multifactorial, and greatly depends on the many social contexts within which they operate. There have been many studies which claim that both the school and the family have a major impact in a child's life and help mould their development [Henderson and Mapp 2002, Chen 2008, Reynolds 1992]. Similarly, [Epstein 1995], argues that the sphere of influence of the school and the family are not separate and distinct, but rather overlap to socialize and educate children.
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For the most part, student achievement is expressed mostly in terms of academic performance. To this end, schools are viewed as the chief stimulus and are much criticized for the declining levels of student academic performance. Even within this highly narrow view of student achievement, there is overwhelming evidence that parental involvement is the key to a student's academic success [Henderson & Berla 1994], [Henderson & Mapp 2002] and [Jeynes 2005]. As such, this dissertation is meant to explore the role of parental involvement in secondary school student achievement.
There have been many attempts in Western societies such as North America, Australia, continental Europe and the United Kingdom, to enhance parental involvement in education (). Furthermore, there has been no shortage of funding to conduct studies to evaluate the effectiveness of parental involvement in student achievement. However, since there are cultural differences between these Western societies and the English-speaking Caribbean societies, Trinidad and Tobago in this case, and since these differences may play a role in shaping the elements of parental involvement, they ultimately affect student achievement.
This paper sets out to review existing research findings with respect to the role of parents in student's academic success. It begins by defining the key terms - student achievement and parental involvement. It then examines the underlying assumptions of this research topic and justifies its importance. Further, the paper identifies the importance of parental involvement and explores the different types and evaluates how they affect the various aspects of student achievement. It goes on to investigate barriers to student achievement and then critically discusses contrary ideas and theories on the influences on student achievement. Finally, it concludes with various recommendations for effective parental involvement in student achievement.
Definition of Key Terms
Parental Involvement. Traditional definitions of parental involvement are limited to school-related activities, such as helping children with homework, discussing children's experiences at school, communication with the school and participation in school-based activities (Sui-Chu & Willms, 1996; Deslandes & Bertrand, 2004; Walker et al., 2005; Green et al., 2007). According to Reynolds (1992) parental involvement is the interaction between parents and children which lends itself to the child's development and includes several different forms of parental participation in education such as home-based, school-based and community-based activities. In this paper, the involvement presented by Hoover-Demsey and Sandler (1995) will be utilized to characterize parental involvement into two broad categories: at home and in the school.
Student Achievement. Student achievement for the purpose of this study will refer to improved student performance. This improvement in performance includes but is not limited to improvement in grades, better performance and participation in literacy, co-curricular activities and assessment (National PTA 2000), as well as a wider range of attitudes, values and knowledge.
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Parental involvement plays an important role in improving students' success in school. This assumption is the keystone of this paper, for indeed human beings can both be intrinsically and extrinsically motivated to succeed.
Students can achieve academic success. The Education Policy Paper of Trinidad and Tobago (), clearly states that every child has the ability to learn. One can then extrapolate, that it is possible for every student to achieve academic success
Students have parents or guardians. If I am to examine the impact of parental involvement to a student's academic success, then central to that research is the premise that all students do in fact have parental support at home.
Teachers want to involve parents in schools to enhance student achievement. If schools (both teachers and the administration) are not receptive to idea of parental involvement, then it may be a source of friction, and present many obstacles.
Parental Involvement in Student Achievement
The Importance of Parental Involvement
The attitude of parents towards their children and their children's "success" in life is strongly shaped by their own background and environment. Levit and Dubner (2005) suggest that "It isn't so much a matter of what you do as a parent; it's who you are." If Levitt and Dubner are to be believed, then parental involvement in schools would be a waste of parental time. Yet in many countries, there has been a push in the education community to reform schools, giving a more important role to parents (). Plans to foster parental involvement have been already scaled up to the national level, and include in some respects the US "No Child Left Behind" Act of 2001. In an address by the Hon. Dr. Tim Gopeesingh, Minister of Education at the Frank B. Seepersad Memorial Teacher of the Year Award 2010 Ceremony, he reiterated the then Education Minister (now Honorable Prime Minister) Kamla Persad-Bissessar's promise that universal secondary education was implemented so no child would be left behind.
In the more economically developed countries (MEDCs), parents are actively involved in their children's education at all ages (). Parental involvement can be defined as the direct effort provided by the parent, to increase the educational outcomes of their children. Better educational outcomes for one's child are the motivation behind most attempts at defining parental involvement by education scholars. Cunha and Heckman  conclude that parental inputs are relatively more effective in raising non-cognitive skills than cognitive skills, and that critical stages for the development of non-cognitive skills occur until late into childhood, in contrast to critical stages for cognitive skill development which are located in early childhood
There is a fundamental difference between being well-educated and well-schooled. There are numerous examples of persons in the public life who are considered to be the "crème de la crème" of society with science, engineering, business, finance and law degrees and doctorates who can demonstrate their knowledge of facts, theories and concepts. But these individuals often make foolish decisions, and even unethical or illegal ones, causing harm financial or otherwise to other individuals, for example Mr. Lawrence Duprey and the CLICO fiasco.
Types of Parental Involvement
Parental involvement has been shown to be an important variable that positively influences children's education (Wanke 2008). Epstein (2001) defines six types of involvement based on the relationships between the family, school, and community: parenting (skills), communicating, volunteering, learning at home, decision making, and collaborating with the community.
In the School.
Obstacles to Parental Involvement
Even the most dedicated parent, genuinely interested in keeping abreast with the child's achievement in school, faces many challenges.
Socioeconomic status. An influential factor in parental involvement in a student's education, is the socioeconomic status of the family. According to Lareau (1987), working class parents' involvement with their children's school is characterized by a more supportive role, while upper middle class parents are generally engaged in school activities and have a "voice" in school decisions. However, Henderson (1988) claims that the children low income parents, are the ones to benefit the most from parental involvement in education.
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Family structure. The traditional "family" is under attack and has been for several years. More and more children in schools are being raised in single-parent families, or families, where both parents work, and child-rearing is left to the eldest child in the bunch. In these cases, parents often feel that they are too busy, both with work and other activities to have an active role in the child's learning and education. Even in case where parents are interested in participating, their economic reality and work schedules prevent them from doing so. In these instances, parents tend to hand over the educational responsibility to the teacher (Onikama 1998).
False pride. The attitudes and behaviours of an adolescent student are greatly influenced by the opinion of his or her peers. For example, a student whose parent has a physical defect or a disability, or even a criminal record or notoriety in the neighbourhood may balk at having said parent visit the school or become involved in school activities, for fear of bullying, and derision from peers. Some parents may be discouraged from participating in school groups (PTA, sports, band, etc) because they believe that their presence at school embarrasses their child (Leon 2003).
Teacher attitude. Many schools are of the opinion that involving parents in classroom learning, is a time consuming "luxury", when principals and teachers are already overworked (Henderson 1988). This sends a message to parents and makes them feel that teachers don't want them around, resulting in a decrease in the level of parental involvement.
Parents. There are even some parents who really want to get involved but do not want to "step" on the teacher's toes, others still, simply are not aware of how to become more involved.
Contrary Ideas or Theories
Student achievement is influenced by many people, processes and institutions, including children themselves, with their unique abilities, temperaments and prosperities. One must then proceed with caution, when seeking to measure the impact of any one (1) force because they often interact with each other:
Students lacking the mental capacity to comprehend and retain information will not have the same level of success, without additional effort (Re. Tutors)
Students who are simply uninterested in school or learning, despite the best school, teachers or supplies
Behavioural, emotional and psychological issues can make it difficult for children to focus, absorb the information, and complete work required
Students whose teachers are uninterested, unapproachable, ineffective or incompetent will directly affect students success
Diet plays an important role. Hungry children and children who eat foods with lots of sugar, have a reduced ability to stay on task
Physical, sexual or emotionally abused children often lack strong role models to convince them that education is important to their future
When minds are clouded with drugs and alcohol, students are unable to do the work needed, and may even lose all interest in school
Late, week night games (sports) can limit the amount of sleep students receive. Students may receive passing grades, simply because they are on the team.
Conclusions and Recommendations
By enhancing communication and providing clear routes for parents to become more active in their children's educational experiences, teachers can build a positive relationship for everyone involved