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Supporting your child’s education: four helpful steps

Parents play a crucial role in supporting their children’s learning. Their involvement lays the foundation for success both inside and outside the classroom.

This makes a parent’s consistent support and nurturing important at every stage of formal schooling, and even before that. The key lies in creating a supportive and encouraging environment at home.

In the school environment, teachers tend to be instructional leaders. This means they often focus on the classroom process of teaching and learning.

Together, however, parents and teachers can help boost a child’s learning by sharing educational responsibilities at home and in school.

Teachers often favour traditional modes of parental involvement. This includes having parents supervise school outings or raise funds for school activities.

But it’s possible to find a middle ground that harnesses the experiences of teachers and parents, and communicates expectations clearly.

This would lead to three positive outcomes: reduced misunderstandings, the development of mutual goals and establishing trust for the teacher-parent partnership.

For more than a decade, through the African Population and Health Research Center’s Advancing Learning Outcomes and Transformational Change (ALOT Change) programme, I have studied how parents’ involvement in education can advance learning outcomes.

This can be done by monitoring children’s progress in school and helping them complete their homework.

Knowing where their children are and who their friends are, and being available to offer insights on issues related to puberty, are also crucial.

To support a child’s educational journey, parents across all socioeconomic groups need to do four main things.

First, they need to meet their family obligations, which include providing food, shelter and paying school fees.

Second, they should provide a conducive environment for children to work on homework assignments. Third, parents need to motivate their children to stay focused on learning and avoid peer pressure.

Finally, should the need arise, parents should seek support to be educated and empowered on how to help their children succeed in school.

What to do

To begin with, parents should meet their basic obligations at home and collaborate at the community level.

Ensuring children are fed and their fees are paid keeps them in school. Good nutrition improves cognitive function, while paying fees boosts school attendance, enhancing a child’s learning. Across all income groups, but particularly in low-income neighbourhoods, community collaboration enables parents to access the support and resources necessary for their children’s learning.

This could mean exchanging ideas with other parents, or getting access to career advisers and sports facilities.

Collaboration at the community level provides social capital. This creates opportunities for bonding, which promotes a child’s social adjustment.

Second, parents should provide their children with places to study, monitor their progress with homework and understand how they are progressing through various grades.

Spaces for study should be quiet and well-organised, but they don’t have to be at home. They can be safe spaces within communities, such as churches.

Parents can get involved in monitoring their children’s progress by actively communicating with teachers and volunteering in schools, both private and public.

This allows parents to get involved in the planning, development and decision-making process of school activities for the benefit of their children.

Third, parents need to provide young children with nurturing care before they begin formal education. They should maintain this caring support throughout the basic education cycle. Parents play key roles as co-educators of their children.

This means going beyond just providing the resources needed for learning to supporting a child’s personal development.

Parents can do this by encouraging their children to ask questions, which can be answered by their older peers or mentors.

Children also need sufficient playtime and sleep. Parents should motivate their children to complete assigned school assignments by, for instance, shortening the time spent on domestic chores, especially for girls.

They should also monitor and give guidance on homework where possible, and provide learning aids and materials for practical activities.

Fourth, I was part of a research team at the African Population and Health Research Centre that found that giving parents access to counsellors to guide them on how to support their children’s schooling improved education performances in informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya.

Under this intervention, parents were taught what their role is as the first supporters of their children’s education.

This role includes taking the time to understand their children, opening lines of communication, discussing sexual and reproductive health matters, and encouraging positive aspirations. The results included an improvement in children’s literacy.

When we asked pupils to explain the relationship between parental support and achievements in literacy and numeracy, they reported a better understanding of mathematical concepts, enhanced ability to interpret mathematical problem statements and improvements in understanding algebra and composition.

One of the reasons for this outcome was that both parents and pupils were more open with each other. They shared their opinions, needs and actions.

Expected outcomes

Parental involvement in education empowers children to reach their full potential. It improves their academic performance, enhances their social and emotional development, and increases their motivation and engagement.

Parental involvement tends to lead to better school attendance, positive behaviour and higher aspirations for future success.

When parents take an active role in their children’s learning, it fosters stronger parent-child relationships, creating a supportive environment for academic growth and personal development.

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