4 November 2015

Rwanda: Why Parents Should Be Involved in the Education of Their Children

opinion

The modern approach to parenting is deplorable to say the least. While one would think that with all the technology, drugs and peer pressure, parents would be more responsible, the opposite is true.

Most parents dump their children in schools and delegate their parental duties to teachers. Their roles have been reduced to paying school fees. This laissez-faire approach to parenting, especially in the Rwandan setting, will only result into chronical joblessness and intellectual deficits in the future.

While there's no doubt that school is important, parents are even more so. Parental involvement - checking homework, attending school meetings and events, discussing school activities at home - has a more powerful influence on students' academic performance than anything about the school the students attend. This is not to say that a superior school is less important but that a positive parent-child dynamic, provides a stimulating and supportive environment, both at school and home, essential for raising our children well.

One of the ways this involvement is ensured is through homework. Whether children do homework at home, complete it in after school programs or work on it during the school day, homework can be a powerful tool for letting parents and other adults know what the child is learning, giving children and parents a reason to talk about what's going on at school, and giving teachers an opportunity to hear from parents about children's learning.

This may be taken with a grain of salt but the fact is that parents, of all backgrounds, do not need to buy expensive educational toys or digital devices for their kids in order to give them an edge. They don't need to chauffeur their offspring to enrichment classes or after school coaching. What they need to do with their children is much simpler: talk. This should raise the question: "Exactly what kind of talk at home can foster children's success at school?

You will agree with me, for example, that children who hear talk about counting and numbers at home start school with much more extensive mathematical knowledge: knowledge that predicts future achievement in the subject. The amount of talk young children hear about the spatial properties of the physical world - how big or small or round or sharp objects are - predicts kids' problem-solving abilities as they prepare to enter kindergarten. While the conversations parents have with their children change as kids grow older, the effect of these exchanges on academic achievement remains strong.

Through such talks, parents play an important role in academic socialization - setting expectations and making connections between current behaviour and future goals (going to college, getting a good job). Engaging in these sorts of conversations, has a greater impact on educational accomplishment just as going to PTA meetings, or even taking children to libraries and museums would. When it comes to fostering students' success, it seems, it's not so much what parents do as what they say.

Besides, students whose parents are more involved at school seldom misbehave. Suspensions and expulsions can well be prevented in time. Who says a stitch in time does not save nine? Whoever does not mend a crack in the wall will soon find himself homeless!

Parents and teachers team work in navigating the right education for the careers of the learners could help build a country free from social ills such as poverty, unemployment and crime.

The writer is a lecturer at The Adventist University of Central Africa

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