The Strongest Influences In An Individuals Life Education Essay

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Introduction

Sociologists agree that the home, and specifically the family, is the first institution of socialization and is one of the strongest influences in an individual's life. We all look to our families for support, guidance and a sense of belonging. In fact, the family, and by extension, one's parents, if they are the primary caregivers, continue to influence the individual throughout his or her life. As a matter of fact, there are cases where even if the parents are not the primary caregivers, their absence impacts, and to some extent influences the individual's life.

As a teacher in a Primary and Junior High School for the past eleven years, and as homeroom teacher for Grades 7, 8 and 9 during her tenure, the researcher has seen many boys who are quite uninterested in school; and who seem oblivious to the need for them to work hard at carving their niche in society, especially as it relates to them achieving their career goals and becoming positive role models. These are the same boys who constantly display behavioural problems of varying sorts. The researcher is very concerned about these boys, who, despite constant encouragement from most, if not all their teachers, continue with very little improvement in their attitude and outlook for these Junior High School years. This causes concern about their home environment and the level of involvement in their academic pursuits from their parents.

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Upon preliminary investigation, the researcher has discovered that for a majority of the boys with whom she interacts at school, their parents are sometimes emotionally absent, or they do not exert as much effort as they should in directing their child's academic performance and conduct. It is due to this observation that the researcher has undertaken to investigate the impact of parental involvement in their sons' academic activities on the conduct and academic achievement of Grade 7 - 9 boys at a rural Primary and Junior High school.

The boys at the Junior High School level range in age from eleven-plus (11+) to fifteen (15) years. These are the years which transitions the individual from childhood to adulthood, the period known as adolescence (or early adolescence in the case of these particular boys). According to the Macmillan Dictionary for Students, adolescence is "a transitional stage of physical and mental human development generally occurring between puberty and legal adulthood" (age of majority), but it is largely characterized as beginning and ending with the teenage stage. It is an intriguing stage of development filled with many physical, cognitive, social, and emotional changes. While all these changes are occurring in the individual, he or she also has to adapt to heightened academic demands. The increase in academic demands and the complexity of the high (or Junior High) school structure make the task of academic success for adolescents even more difficult. One would think that it is at this stage that the boys would need the full involvement of their parents in their academic pursuits.

At the end of this study, the impact of parental involvement in the academic activities of their sons on the conduct and academic achievement of Grades 7 - 9 boys should be ascertained, so that relevant action can be taken to help these boys, and their parents to work together to achieve optimum academic and behavioural results.

Research Questions

This research seeks to investigate what impact parental involvement in their sons' academic activities has on the behaviour and academic achievement of Grade 7-9 boys. The specific questions that the research seeks to answer are:

Is the behaviour of early adolescent boys affected by their parents' involvement in their school life?

Does parental involvement affect early adolescent boys' academics?

Is there a relationship between the gender of the more greatly involved parent and academic achievement?

How do parents view their role of being involved in the academic activities of their early adolescent boys?

How do early adolescent boys view the role of their parents' involvement in their academic activities?

Rationale

Why is undertaking a study of this nature a timely and relevant one? There may be many reasons, but the key ones for the researcher are as follows:

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Boys in the Jamaican Society seem to be at great risk of leaving high school illiterate. Any help that can be given to them should be encouraged.

Some parents, especially those of adolescent boys (at least in the Junior High School where this study will be conducted) seem not to understand the immense and continuous role that they need to play in their son's lives. They too need to be enlightened.

Teachers of adolescent boys may be encouraged to go the 'extra mile' for them if they are made aware of the lack of parental guidance and/or involvement that some of these boys have to deal with.

Methodology

The data for this study will be collected through the use of questionnaires. One will be administered to a sample of boys, and one to their parents. Interviews will also be done with various stakeholders in the education process.

Literature Review

Although widespread support for parental involvement is reflected in current educational policies and practices, what this means is not always clear. Parental involvement includes a wide range of behaviors but generally, the term refers to parents' and family members' use and investment of resources in their children's schooling. These investments can take place in or outside of school, with the intention of improving children's learning. Parental involvement at home can include activities such as discussions about school, helping with homework, and reading with children. Involvement at school may include parents volunteering in the classroom, attending workshops, or attending school plays and sporting events.

Research on the effects of parental involvement has shown a consistent, positive relationship between parents' engagement in their children's education and student outcomes. Due to the fact that parent involvement has been shown to be a very important positive force in a child's life (Patrikakou, Weissberg, Redding & Walberg, in press), one would expect that during a critical and demanding phase such as adolescence, the two most important environments in child development, home and school, would increase their collaboration. However, the opposite is true: As children progress through school, parent involvement declines dramatically (Zill & Nord, 1994). There are several factors which contribute to this decline including the more complex structure of high schools, the demanding curricula that can be intimidating to parents, and the fewer school outreach efforts to involve parents. Or, could it be that this decline of parent involvement is just an indication of an underlying decline of parent influence over adolescents?

The Michigan Department of Education compiled information on the impact of parental involvement in their children's education in relation to academic achievement from various researches. The findings were enlightening and some of them are discussed hereafter. According to Clark, (1990) school age children spend 70% of their waking hours (including weekends and holidays) outside of school. Since this is so, then the home (particularly parents) needs to take a vested interest in the education of their young. Obviously, students cannot complete all that the curriculum requires in the school year through only class activities. Homework assignments and research projects are usually done outside the school room. Parents therefore are the teachers at home and should provide the guidance that their children need to properly complete the given tasks. One research found that the most effective forms of parent involvement are those which engage parents in working directly with their children on learning activities at home (Cotton, K., Wikelund, K., 2001)

Another interesting finding was that parent expectation of their children's academic achievement was an important factor and predictor of the academic performance of their children (Reynolds, 1999). When parents communicate reasonable expectations of their children's achievement, they are encouraged by that expectation, and seek to live up to them. Studies (e.g. Clarke, 1990) further show that parents of high-achieving students tend to set higher standards for their children's educational activities more than parents of low-achieving students. When parents continue to encourage their children to do well, the odds are that they will strive to do well.

In Jamaica, a National Parent Teachers' Association was launched in 2006 to assist with the calls that have been made to have parents more involved in their child's education process. The Jamaica Information Service reports that according to Sharon Wolfe, Communications Director of the Education Transformation Team, "the mandate of the NPTA seeks to strengthen and build on the partnerships between the school and the home. The National Parent Teachers Association is quite clear that the parental involvement is not as strong as it needs to be and so will be formulating strategies to ensure that, that increases." Clearly parental involvement in children's education is of utmost importance, and parents who are not yet involved need to. It is hoped that at the end of this study, the parents of the boys who will be involved in this study will see the need to get involved in a meaningful way.

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