AS SCHOOL re-opens its gates to commence its first school term this year, classrooms and learning spaces once again see many happy faces of pupils and students taking their spots for the first time in 2015. Tears and hugs of reluctant separation also filled some early childhood learners who made their debut entrance in kindergarten classes this year.
As the school session wraps up its first week, it is heartening to see parents (and students alike) in good spirits to have their children’s grade improve this year.
Hajah Norlela, a civil servant in Kuala Belait who is also a mother of three, felt strongly about parental involvement in supporting the efforts to support children’s learning.
“I may not fully understand the many subjects that my children are studying at school but asking questions about their day at school as well as sharing with them my hopes for them in the future makes them feel more committed to their studies,” she said.
As a mother, she believed that it is important for parents to find time to sit with their children as they revise or do their schoolwork. The University of Illinois found that studies have indicated children whose parents and/or other significant adults share in their formal education tend to do better in school.
Findings from the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) assessment across 14 countries revealed that students whose parents reported that they had read a book with their child daily or almost every day, or “once a week” during the first year of primary school have markedly higher scores in PISA 2009 compared to students whose parents reported that they had never or almost never, or only once or twice a month read a book with their child.
According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), many parents instinctively know that spending more time with their children and being actively involved in their education will contribute to a good head-start in life. Hence, Hajah Norlela’s interest is not uncommon.
However, OECD also acknowledged that because many parents have to juggle various demands at work and home where many find it challenging to find time in helping their children with school work.
Others may feel reluctant to commit because there is lack of confidence in the skills and knowledge to help their children succeed in school. Some parents may also feel that they are at a loss as to where they should start in helping their children in their learning.
Analyses from PISA indicate that it does not require a PhD or unlimited hours for parents to make a difference. It is found that many parent-child activities associated with better reading performance among students involve relatively little time and no specialised knowledge. The main ingredient to this is a genuine interest and active engagement.
Education experts suggest that at the most basic level, parents can begin by encouraging the education of their children.
This can be demonstrated by showing that they truly value education themselves.
This can be done through parents’ effort in showing interest in reading, paying attention to school matters, showing concerns for children’s school progress, committing time to attending Parent-Teacher Meeting (PTAs) as well as volunteering in school wherever possible.
An important part to encouraging children’s education is also through ensuring that they attend school regularly.
A study conducted by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, Inc (CFE), a leading non-profit organisation working to protect and promote the constitutional right to a sound basic education, in New York found a strong correlation between their target group performances to attendance.
Similar strong correlations were detected between chronic absence rate and performance. As similar patterns are suspected to impact students here, if preventive steps are not taken, there is pressing need for parents and community leaders to work hand-in-hand with schools to ensure children attend school on a regular basis.
A milestone in the effort to better monitor school attendance, schools throughout the country have now been provided with iNEIS – an IT system that can act, among other things, as a more efficient mechanism to monitor attendance in schools. As attendance pattern become more transparent to teachers and school administrators, parents need to provide support by alerting school if their child is not able to come on a particular day. This will allow better management of student presence, their lessons and identifying possible help situations that may be needed.
Another helpful parental demonstration of interest in their children’s learning can also be shown through other parent-child activities even when children are older. Results from PISA show a strong correlation between parent-child activities (of children who are 15 years old) and students’ reading performance during PISA.
An example that was quoted in PISA was where “students whose parents discuss political and social issues with them either weekly or daily score 28 points higher, on average, than those whose parents discuss these issues less often or not at all.”
PISA findings also show that parent-child activities like discussing books, films or television programmes, discussing how well children are doing at school, eating main meals together around the table and spending time just talking with one’s children are also related to better reading performance amongst students in school.
Every school day is precious towards the development of children.
In Brunei, with 201 school days, it is essential that we all work together to ensure children’s steady learning in schools.
The bottom line in building the capacity of the young is that it does not rely solely with educators in schools.
Parents can support their children realise their full potential by dedicating their time talking and reading with them.
Many education experts believe that should even start when children are very young. Dorothy Rich, author of MegaSkills, wrote, “In this complex world, it takes more than a good school to educate children. And it takes more than a good home. It takes these two major educational institutions working together.”
At the end of the day, we must realise that children are a trust given to their parents. Islam accords parents with the responsibility for this trust on the Day of Judgment.
The entrusted responsibility essentially involves accountability for the moral, ethical as well as the education of the children. It is therefore important that parents realise the value of the gift of children and the gravity of the given responsibility.
This emphasises the need for them to assume their role as parents not only for the benefit of their family, community and country they live in but for the children themselves and the accountability that we all will be answerable to in the hereafter. – Courtesy of Ministry of Education