Importance of parent and community engagement for educational reform - Hindustan Times
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Importance of parent and community engagement for educational reform

ByHindustan Times
Jun 28, 2023 11:03 AM IST

This article is authored by Veerendra Mishra, IPS, MP cadre and Kalinga Fellow.

There is an adage that "raising a child takes a whole village’. This emphasises the shared responsibility of parents and communities to provide a safe, nurturing, and inclusive environment for children to flourish.

Education
Education

The popular slogan of Indian Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi, ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’, envisions and epitomises the collective effort of communities and applies equally to the inclusive growth of children’s learning.

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In India, children typically spend the initial three years at home or in creches, subsequently attend educational institutions such as anganwadis and pre-schools, and gradually transition to primary schools. Therefore, what children learn at home or how their parents and communities are involved in the foundational stage of their lives impacts their future. The foundational stage is the period encompassing an individual's life from birth to eight years.

A report on the impact of family involvement on the education of children ages three to eight, published by Johns Hopkins University after reviewing around 100 research studies, found a positive link between parental involvement and children's literacy in numeracy skills and socio-emotional skills in the early grades. Indeed, developing these skills is indispensable for a child's future growth and development.

An ecosystem enhancing the extent and quality of parental and community involvement is imminent. Globally, many governments and civil society organisations have prioritised parent and community engagement through their programmes and policies. They have done so by fostering strong partnerships between the parents and school management, through which they have provided them with resources and platforms to participate in decision-making.

Few successful global initiatives, like the "Parents in Education" initiative (PiE) by the ministry of education, Singapore, and the Transition Project, a training programme in the United Kingdom developed by the Manchester Education Partnership, have brought about the desired change. In the former, a resource portal has been launched for parents to access educational news, information on the school curriculum, and suggestions for supporting learning at home. And the latter is the programme to guide and prepare the primary school staff to build relationships with parents to increase their involvement in their children's education. Similarly, the United States has developed a Parent and Family Engagement Framework, which acts as a tool to provide guidance as well as resources to engage. The formation of a parent-teacher association (PTA) is an effort to institutionalise parent-school partnerships. The PTA motivates parents to engage in school activities and critical decision-making processes.

Each initiative reflects the respective countries' unique needs and cultural contexts, aiming to create strong partnerships between schools, parents, and communities for the benefit of children's education. The Indian government has launched the NIPUN Bharat mission (National Initiative for Proficiency in Reading with Understanding and Numeracy) to support the universalisation of the achievement of foundational skills by the end of Grade 3. The NIPUN Bharat mission envisages an essential role for parental and community participation in its strategic implementation, and guidelines have been framed suggesting ways of engagement for states and Union Territories to increase parental and community engagement.

The ministry of education's department of education and literacy has also released guidelines, aligned to the principles of Atmanirbhar, or self-reliant Bharat, for parent participation in home-based learning during school closures and beyond. These guidelines discuss the role of parents, family members, and carers in promoting the welfare of children regardless of their literacy levels and helping them facilitate home-based learning. Parent-teacher meetings, which have developed into a norm in almost all schools, have helped build trust between parents and institutions, encouraging parents to talk with children about academics.

Significant efforts have been made by most governments to enhance parent and community participation in India. However, more can be done to strengthen our approach. Given the disparities between rural and urban schools and then even further between private and government schools, it is important to establish stronger communication channels contextualised for each target audience. These communication channels will be essential in keeping parents informed and facilitating frequent communication between parents and teachers.

Making parents part of decision-making at the school or community level will provide them with a platform to share feedback, concerns, and insights. The RTE Act has mandated the establishment of School Management Committees (SMCs) for this purpose. However, most of these SMCs need to function more effectively. Therefore, it is imperative to strengthen and revamp the school management committees.

Nonetheless, identifying parents' challenges from diverse social, economic, linguistic, and geographical backgrounds and empowering them with the knowledge and skills required to support their child's learning is essential. This can be done by disseminating adequate resources, tools, and workshops contextualised to their needs.

On the anniversary of NEP and NIPUN Bharat Mission, focus should shift to prioritising parental and community engagement, especially in the foundational years, which can help India go a long way in shaping the future of its children.

This article is authored by Veerendra Mishra, IPS, MP cadre and Kalinga Fellow.

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