A child’s education starts at birth, experts agree, and the most crucial years of learning actually come in the first six to eight years of a child’s life. This means, it is parents who hold the key to a child’s future academic success. Barring a few outliers where a school or a teacher can cause a positive/innovative disruption, most citizens learn most from their parents.
In fact, parent involvement in education is so important, that schools have to enroll their partnership and encourage them to provide services for children. Parents can support schools in becoming community hubs for families. Schools can also train teachers and principals in the area of family engagement in education. Schools can establish an office for family engagement within the Department of Education – as an example the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) – and reach out to more families to draw into this partnership.
All of this goes towards the goal of empowering parents to get involved in their children’s education.
Schools should believe in the fact that when families are engaged in their children’s education, student achievement increases regardless of parents’ social or economic status. As a matter-of-fact they should encourage this engagement.
Indian schools’ performance in PISA is abysmal. 83% of our children do not read proficiently by the end of 7th grade. In fact, they cannot perform what is required of a 3rd grade student. See http://ajayshahblog.blogspot.in/2012/01/first-pisa-results-for-india-end-of.html
How can parents ensure their child does not fall between the cracks? Here are some ways you can get involved in your child’s education.
- Read together every day.
Studies show that early literacy tends to foster healthy brain development; the earlier kids learn to read, the better they will do in other subjects. Parents should encourage “book cuddling”, a time for sharing a story together. Spend that one hour early in their age to get them motivated.
Not that others aren’t important, but parents have a particularly powerful voice for their child. We encourage you to use it to good effect. Some parents cannot read out to their children. You don’t need to read the book to share it with your child. Open it up and start telling a story about what you see on the page. Play a game with your child, pretend to tell a story just from the pictures. Even better, let him/her help you tell the story.
- Have vocabulary-rich conversations.
Speaking to your child is just as important for literacy growth as reading to him/her. Literacy-rich interaction between a parent and a child is the key. In a small snippet of a conversation, hundreds of words and images could be exchanged. Those words are important building blocks towards gaining a rich vocabulary. Talk to them about anything and everything—how a thermometer works, what colour things are, the lyrics to songs etc. It is important to create a literacy-rich home environment at the earliest age possible.
Play vocabulary games – like word building, crosswords, scramble etc. with your child. Always have a dictionary by your side when you do these.
- Schools should open communication between Prep & Primary teachers.
Experts agree that preschool is a fundamental, yet often overlooked, part of schooling. Commonly, the Prep and Primary systems do not communicate, which leaves room for gaps in learning, and opens the possibility of under-preparing or over-preparing a child for the elementary years. In India many parents send their kids to different prep and primary schools. While this may be convenient, this is not as efficient.
Schools and parents should believe and integrate/connect, every bit of the way, from birth to third grade. Don’t undervalue the preschool years. Find out what your child is learning, what they will be learning and how you can prepare them at home and every step of the way.
- Use your resources.
The first stop in locating resources is your local library. Not only does it provide reading material, it is also a great place to meet other parents. There aren’t many libraries in our city and close by. Schools should open up libraries and encourage parents to use it. Parents and volunteers can donate your old books to these libraries.
Schools can also innovate and create a series of workshops specifically for parents. Some of them could be “English Language Training”, “Educational Methods”, “Staying Healthy, Staying Positive”. All these classes should be aimed at training parents in being more involved in their children’s education.
One of the best things you can do to help your child is to educate yourself. Find out what resources your school provides for parents and get yourself involved.
Director TATVA Global School