Family and school are the two main socializing settings for children and adolescents and their role in education is beyond doubt. A study of almost 1400 families in secondary schools, reported in the International Journal of Teaching and Case Studies suggests that family involvement should be a priority in a child's education.
Mercè Pañellas Valls and colleagues at Ramon Llull University, Barcelona, Spain, explain that currently education requires different coordinated approaches to address the evolving needs of society, at the same time it must recognise each student's specific abilities and responsibilities. With the advent of information and communications technology, learning has become as much about what happens in the social and cultural environment as about the traditional "classroom," they add. As such, they suggest that a learning community model is the way forward for education, which will require the involvement of students' families.
They suggest that understanding the current position is essential to taking the first steps towards greater family participation and will involve reinforcing tutorial time, class group meetings and opening up secondary schools as educational centres within the community, something that has already been done in some parts of the world for many years, with great success.
The team surveyed 1388 families with children in secondary education in the Barcelona area. Their results suggest that family involvement with secondary schooling has decreased in recent years. However, parents and guardians are predisposed to improving that relationship, particularly if that involves more frequent contact with their child's tutor. Relaxed, two-way interviews, they say, can motivate students and enhance their academic and emotional development, if they are undertaken not only in cases of conflict or when problems arise. The team points out, however, that almost a third of parents said that no tutor interview at all was acceptable.
However, almost all parents surveyed (95.5%) reported that they feel a joint responsibility with the school in their child's education. In contrast, approximately the same number do not see the school as a reference for community life, but only as an educational centre where knowledge processes are developed behind closed doors, the team found.
"Interviews should be the most attractive element to start a relationship between teachers and families, by promoting an atmosphere of confidence and the disposition to share experiences and knowledge with the aim of progressively building a community that learns," the team adds. "In the adolescent's learning and socialising process, parents should be actively involved, but also the adolescent himself or herself."
"Our society needs a new integrated educational model, where both adolescents and adults can take advantage of the educational elements provided by the social network. This integrated educational model implies being aware that education is not just a prerogative of the school, but has to be the result of a network project, including contributions from the school, families, associations, cultural associations, educational companies, trade unions, working world, mass media, and so on," the team concludes.
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