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National Strategy and Policy

Parental Engagement: Why now?


Across the world, we find ourselves at a vital point of change. Whilst traditional ‘western’ countries are seeking to emerge from an economic recession and high unemployment, emerging economies enjoy mounting optimism and growing markets. The digital information revolution reaches every corner of the planet, raising aspirations and feeding a desire for greater personal wealth and freedom. The old world order is changing, and changing for good.


Education is seen as key to the economic success of a country and many of the emerging economies are investing heavily in this area, when some of the ‘western’ countries are actually cutting back. Through historical links and cultural ties, the formal education systems of some western countries have been taken as models by countries keen to increase national prosperity. However, it is important to remember that in some aspects these traditional western systems, developed over 150 years, carry with them the vestiges of attitudes, practices and vocabulary that have no place in today’s world.


Research has been telling us for years that parents have a key role to play in the education of their children. The key to successfully employing Parental Engagement is beautifully simple, yet vitally important: as a bottom line, all parents have to do is show their children how important they think education is, by having regular conversations with their children about school.  The extent to which parents support their children will vary from individual to individual, the important point is that all parents should understand that they can contribute to their children’s educational outcomes regardless of their own experience of education.


If one of the aims of education is to liberate the individual...every individual, we need to empower every parent, not just the ones who feel confident in an education environment. Regardless of where we are with the establishment of our national education systems, we all need to engage all parents – not just the ones who are at home with the system.


In 2011, the USA publication ’ Education Week’, when writing about the Achievement Gap said,” schools have employed a variety of tactics to address it. Common reform recommendations have included reducing class sizes, creating smaller schools, expanding early-childhood programs, raising academic standards, improving the quality of teachers provided to poor and minority students, and encouraging more minority students to take high-level courses. Still, progress in reducing academic divides has been slow or nonexistent.”


Where is Parental Engagement? In the USA the phrase Parental Involvement is used to lump together parent support in the home and parent support in the school. In many schools there is an expectation that parents will volunteer to work several hours per year within their child’s school. Research shows that many parents, especially those who did not achieve highly themselves in school, are put off by the thought of working within a school environment. Why confuse the two functions? Why put off the very parents we want to encourage? We want all parents to support their child’s learning in the home. We want some parents to help out in schools. The former is more important, is called Parental Engagement, and research shows it improves attainment. The latter is a bonus, is called Parental Involvement, and research shows that it has no direct impact on attainment.


In the 1990s, the guru of Parental Involvement, Joyce Epstein, published  a list she classified as 6 different  types of Parental Involvement. That list is still used in schools across the USA today in spite of the fact that research has now identified and isolated the impacts of both Parental Engagement and Parental Involvement. Within the list 2 items can be classified as Parental Engagement, 3 as Parental Involvement, and one as both. Is it time that legislators in the USA took a serious look at the benefits of promoting Parental Engagement?


For leaders in countries investing in their education systems, have you ensured that teachers and education administrators are trained to appreciate the potential that lies within all parents to support their child’s learning and attainment? Is Parental Engagement part of your road map? Have you ensured that teachers and education administrators are trained to appreciate the potential that lies within all parents to support their child’s learning and attainment? Is Parental Engagement part of your road map?


For leaders in countries where recession is impacting negatively on education budgets, and where attempts to close the Achievement Gap continue to progress too slowly,  is it not time to seriously explore the untapped benefits of Parental Engagement?


For business leaders within the education sector, does the development of Parental Engagement feature within your business plan?


We would suggest that enshrining Parental Engagement within a cultural expectation of education provides the greatest opportunity for every individual to achieve their potential.


Why not speak to us about policy formation, and training on Parental Engagement?