“Children learn what they live”. It is one of my favourite poems written by Dorothy Law Nolte. Throughout my 15 years of work in education field in Nepal, this poem always reminds me of my ongoing quest, which is to understand what children should experience at home. Facilitating children’s learning at home and empowering parents to support in their children’s learning is proved to be more important at the moment where the schools are closed. Therefore, this article offers some practical ways to bridge the gap between what theoretical knowledge children acquire inside four walls of the classrooms and what experiential learning opportunities parents can offer at home. It discusses the importance of educating parents regarding how they can contribute to their children’s learning at home and school.
Importance of parent education: My reflection
Academic achievement of a child in Nepal is mostly based on theoretical knowledge. However, some exceptional schools provide students with good environment and ample opportunities for experiential learning. In any case, schools alone cannot help individuals achieve success in life. As a teacher educator, I have visited more than twenty districts across Nepal where I got opportunities to work with various primary and secondary schools. During my visit, I was interested to explore the relationship between parents and schools, and parents involvement in their children’s learning. Most school communities understood that parents involvement means forming a Parent Teacher Association (PTA) that holds meetings sometimes only to have general discussions regarding students’ assignments, stationary, school infrastructure and so on. It was disheartening to notice that most of the schools did not pay any attention to the fact that parents can play an important role contributing to their children’s learning and overall growth at home and at school and learning can go beyond school boundary. All parents including those who are illiterate can be trained to be the ideal contributor.
While working for Rato Bangala Foundation some years ago, I was involved in a five-year long child-centred teacher training programme implemented in around six hundred schools in far- western Nepal. At the end of the project, we visited many cluster schools for monitoring and evaluation purposes. Many teachers in those schools expressed their concerns that it was challenging to improve children’s learning outcomes without the parents’ support. They reported that the children who were irregular at school were either busy in household chores, for example looking after their siblings, or working in the field. There were times when students stayed absent for a week or more even on occasions such as a distant relative’s wedding or a minor ritual in their neighbourhood. The teachers further complaint that many parents did not care about their children’s dress up, regular diet, health and hygiene. To our surprise, some children, especially girls, even used to bring their younger siblings to their classrooms to look, which would distract the whole class. What a teacher shared with me about a parent’s view, still hovers around my mind, “What’s the significance of sending my child to school? He can rather be a helping hand at home!” It was evident that many parents were illiterate and immature for good parenting and taking responsibilities of their children. That trend of parents to be irresponsible was not just because of poverty, child marriage, family break ups and lack of education but mainly because it sadly became part of the community culture. An important lesson learnt from that experience was that parents education and involvement in children’s learning plays a vital role in the learning achievement of children. In response to the findings of the monitoring and evaluation process, our organization then began to work intensively to run series of workshops for educating parents. To the best of my knowledge, there is a limited attention paid to educating parents to support Nepal government’s initiation of parent involvement and I feel proud to be a part of that movement.
In yet another experience, while working for an organization, we managed to incorporate parent education as a component in our training programme run in a mountainous district in the eastern region. I found it challenging to motivate headteachers and teachers to spare time to run workshops for parents on good parenting and involving parents in their children’s learning. However, once we did start working with parents, we were amazed to see the result. Parents easily accepted the change and happily began to participate in various school activities. For example, some parents visited their child’s classroom and shared the skills they knew. They set up a trend to read with their children at home and even those parents who could not read began to listen to their children reading to them or have meaningful interactions with them. It was a successful practice that helped to improve the parents’ relationship with the schools. Consequently, children began to take library books back home regularly, fill in the reading logs, try bringing healthy snacks to school, and most importantly they began to look quite clean, happy, and cheerful. Moreover, they looked very proud when their parents made an effort to visit their classrooms and shared any of their life skills ranging from the skill of brewing tea to kitchen gardening.
Parents’ contribution at home while schools remain closed
Finally, building upon my learning about the significance of parents’ involvement in children’s education and addressing to the current scenario of school closure due to the pandemic, our team have developed a set of guidelines for parents for our partner schools. Here, I have briefly shared some of the steps that I think parents can take away to guide their children:
Raising awareness about ecology: Parents can explain with an example, how human actions affect the environment and living organisms around them giving an example how throwing rubbish in a clean river can pollute water and poison fish which in turn can lead to various diseases such as cancer, when consumed. They should teach children how they can contribute to save mother earth from home by engaging them in the process of:
- practicing to reduce wastage
- making compost from food waste, and planting trees and flowers
- recycling, reusing or reducing plastics
- loving and caring animals in their surrounding
Boosting a child’s social skills: These tips can help parents to develop the social skills in their children. Therefore, parents can be requested to;
- Spend about 15 minutes of quality time with their kids, telling them stories and biographies, reading aloud and trying to use good words at home learning to teach new words.
- Try to interact with their children in their mother tongue.
- Always listen to their child and acknowledge what he/she has to say.
- Showcase good social behaviour such as showing respect and speaking politely to others as the children are good at imitating us.
Raising physical awareness: Parents can follow these simple instructions to help their children achieve overall physical wellness:
- Prepare healthy food as much as possible for children avoiding regular junk food. A balanced diet is important for wellness.
- Teach them good personal hygiene such as washing hands regularly using soap, brushing teeth, wearing clean clothes, and keeping nails trimmed.
- Teach them basic movement skills such as catching, hitting, jumping, throwing, and running. They can actively play games with their children and make them practice focusing more on participation and enjoyment rather than winning.
Help children grow spiritually and emotionally: Parents can focus on these tips to attain proper spiritual and emotional growth:
- Spend some quiet time with their children in nature and meditate with them.
- Teach them to express love and gratitude to nature and the community.
- Demonstrate how to solve issues without becoming violent and teach that we should control our emotions.
- Teach them various acts from a young age such as making their bed after waking up, thanking someone for their kindness or service. This is to help them develop good habits for their future.
Parents should always try and identify their child’s strengths, abilities and interests in particular areas of learning, i.e. sports, music, arts, language, nature, mathematics, society, culture, and so on. Also, they can work with the people in the community to improvise their daily activities to incorporate in their child’s learning when needed. One can always consult elderly people from their community how various skills, culture, and traditions were passed being transferred from their ancestors and see how they can adapt the ideas to their teaching.
The present havoc created by pandemic and the closure of educational institutions around the world has compelled us to redesign the school-centred teaching learning and institutionalize the role of parents particularly in facilitating children’s learning at home. The joint effort of schools and parents will definitely produce better learning outcomes of the children. Therefore, it is a prime time to work on parents education so that children can get better academic support at home too. Moreover, the aware parents can also equip their children with important life skills, which can help them to fit well in this century. Although these aspects are addressed across the school curriculum, in the present context, children’s learning inside the classrooms is not connected with what they experience at home. The educators, on the other hand, should create and make a meaningful connection between teaching learning in the classroom and activities at home. Likewise, apart from contributing at home, parents’ regular participation in the school programmes is very crucial and they should be encouraged to spare some participating in the schools events, interaction and activities. Parents are the best educators who can provide their children with an opportunity to learn by experiencing above mentioned fundamental skills.
Babita Sharma Chapagain is associated with Integrative Education Research and Recreation Centre and also works part time in Himalayan Trust Nepal. She earned her MA in ELT from Kathmandu University and completed another degree from the University of Warwick as a Hornby Scholar. She is interested to work in the areas of classroom based research and integrated education.
Cite as: Chapagain, B. S. (2020, July). Significance of parents’ involvement in children’s learning in crisis and ever. http://eltchoutari.com/2020/07/significance-of-parents-involvement-in-childrens-learning-in-crisis-and-ever/