Mother helping her son with his homework (Photo by: Godong/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
A first of its kind survey focusing on learner experiences has found that parental involvement in their child’s education has proven to result in safer environments, high grades and better communication with teachers.
The DG Murray Trust’s Parent Power initiative has conducted the first-ever survey of parental perception of South Africa’s education system by focusing on experiences and the overall happiness of children in schools, instead of grades. These experiences have been captured in five domains that created the Parent Power Index: happiness, safety, confidence in principals, their knowledge of the school and the power they have as parents.
“The matric results only come at the end of the whole process. However, all these other factors added up can lead to a shift in results. If we have competent principals and if we have a safe environment for our children, they are most likely to be able to learn better and experience school in a better way,” said Andisiwe Hlungwane, project lead for the Parents and Teachers Initiative at the trust.
Hlungwane says the Parent Power initiative aims to ensure that parents are active in the schools their children attend to be comfortable enough to advocate for their children’s needs, such as safety and the quality of education.
“We want parents to see the role that they can play in engaging with their child’s happiness at school,” she said.
The report shows that parents who communicate with the school through SMS, email or Whatsapp are more involved in their child’s education.
But this differs with private and public schools because schools sometimes need to consider the parents’ availability for them to be involved in the education process, said Hlungwane.
“It’s really about how do schools accommodate their parents and their contexts if they really want parents to be involved — there is somewhat of a difference but we need to look at it in a very nuanced way and understand the context that parents are in.”
The report has found that parents who report the school’s classrooms are not overcrowded, believe the school is clean and safe, report knowing that their child understands what is expected of them, have a good school governing body, are more regularly involved in their child’s education and require more information.
The report notes that a lack of parental involvement is attributed to intimidation based on the parent’s personal experience.
“Oftentimes parents come into schools with trauma — so schools need to on their side build a lot of trust with parents and open up communication so parents can be open and frank with schools and teachers when it comes to their child’s work,” said Hlungwane.
Parent Power’s report, Quality of Education in South Africa Through the Eyes of Parents, which was carried out based on a survey by the Human Sciences Research Council, was launched on 21 July in the presence of schools, parents and partners in North West.