Tomorrows Communities Will Be Built By Todays Youth Education Essay

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Tomorrow's communities will be built by today's 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 (Weiten, 2010; Laming, 2004).

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 (Cook, Herman, Phillips & Settersen, 2002; Azmitia and Cooper, 2002). 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 & 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.

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; Jeynes, 2005).

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 (Simpson, 2001). 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 secondary school student achievement. 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, 2005; Walker, Wilkins, Dallaire, Sandler & Hoover-Dempsey, 2005; Green, Walker, Hoover-Dempsey & Sandler, 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-Dempsey 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.


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 (1993), 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 some sort of parental support.

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

Learning is a complex process of acquiring new, or modifying existing skills, values, behaviours and knowledge, which begins at birth and continues throughout one's life. Parents are undoubtedly a child's first educator and role model and therefore would have a strong influence on their learning. The attitude of parents towards their children and their children's "success" in life is strongly shaped by their own background and environment. Levitt and Dubner (2005) suggest that it's not what you do as a parent; it's who you are, and if they 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, for example the US "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) Act of 2001, the Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act 2006 and Australia's Parents/Carers as Partners in Schooling Policy (2001). In Trinidad and Tobago, plans to foster parental involvement have already been scaled up to the national level. The government of Trinidad and Tobago has adopted some aspects of the US NCLB Act, and has promised that universal secondary education will be implemented, so that no child would be left behind (Gopeesingh, 2011).

There exists a great body of literature on parental involvement and its positive impact on adolescent education (Chavkin, 1993; Epstein, 1989, 1991; Eccles & Harold, 1993; Hobbs, 1984). Better educational outcomes for one's child, is the general motivation behind most parental involvement. To facilitate this drive for academic success, there has developed in Trinidad and Tobago, a parallel "lessons" industry seemingly devoted to promoting cramming and memorization. From my experience, schools unknowingly (or perhaps knowingly) seek to mimic this industry, as teacher output is often measured against student performance at CXC Examinations, in staff meetings.

But there is a fundamental difference between being well-educated and well-schooled. There are numerous examples of persons in the public life, in both the national and in international arena, 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, as observed in the Enron banking scandal of 2001, and the HSBC banking scandal of 2012.

I must admit, that I am guilty of having this "teach to the test" mode of thinking. I had put so much focus on producing results, specifically on standardized tests, that I prepared my exam classes for these tests, by spending an inordinate amount of time teaching test format and test-taking skills. It was only during the Foundations Course, this year that I realized that I was quantifying human worth, by grades achieved in examinations. But student achievement should not be quantitatively deduced but qualitatively, by instruments such as perseverance, commitment, justice, equality, liberty and truth - all things which cannot be assessed on a score sheet. In my parent-teacher meetings, I am often told by parents that they wanted their child to attend a "good" school. But for children to grow, develop and prosper, what they truly need is meaningful parental involvement in their holistic development, not just the academia.

Types of Parental Involvement

Parental involvement has been shown to be an important variable that positively influences children's education (Boethel, 2003; Ceballo, 2004; Bohner & Wanke, 2002), to the extent that it can serve as a predictor of how well they will do in school (Caminiti, 1990). Epstein (2001) identifies six types of parental involvement, based on the relationships between the family, school, and community: parenting, communicating, volunteering, learning at home, decision making, and collaborating with the community, which I will attempt to categorize under two broad headings: parental involvement at home and parental involvement at school.

At Home. While many teachers and parents want children to succeed (Drummond & Stipek, 2004), parents are often reluctant to be involved in the manner in which schools expect them to (Graue & Brown, 2003). Nevertheless, the evidence suggests that parental involvement and activities at home have a significant effect on adolescent achievement (Banks, 1976; Jeynes, 2005; Henderson & Mapp, 2002).

From anecdotal accounts, the "family" in Trinidad and Tobago, has undergone a severe reconstructive surgery. The number of single parent families and families where the mother employed outside of the home has increased. Children of mothers who work, and are left unsupervised for long periods of time, have (slightly) lower grades than those whose mothers do not (U.S. Dept. of Education, National Centre for Education Statistics, 1988). Fathers too, play a crucial role for their children, regardless of the child's gender, ensuring positive outcomes, such us better exam results, higher educational expectations, a higher level of educational qualifications and greater progress at school, more positive attitudes and better behaviour at school (Goldman, 2005).

According to Harris and Goodall (2007), by supporting student learning in the home, parents make the greatest difference to achievement, rather than supporting activities in the school. My own parents set out from an early age, what was expected of me academically, and helped me to achieve it, where they saw me falling short. This is in line with the findings of Astone and McLanahan (1991), which illustrated that children who spoke to their parents about school matters showed improved grades. Fan and Chen (2001) and Desforges and Abouchaar (2003) suggest that the aspirations and expectations of parents for their children's achievements have a huge impact on their academic performance.

But sometimes these expectations alone are not enough. Children from low income families generally do worse than children from high income families in academic tests (Douglas, Ross & Simpson, 1968). The limited resources and material deprivation experienced by low income families, is thought to be a major factor in the disparity seen in student achievement between low and higher income families, as students do not have the same physical space, housing