The Challenges of Minimal Parental Involvement in Elementary School Learners

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CHAPTER 1
BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
1. INTRODUCTION
Lack of parental involvement in primary schools is a cause for
concern and can no longer be ignored. This point is
demonstrated
by
the
researcher’s
observations
of
the
frustrations displayed by fellow educators when discussing the
effect of parental involvement on learner performance. This
problem has become a burning issue in Union meetings,
amongst colleagues in staff rooms and even in educator’s
workshops. Parents too are complaining about their children’s
performance at school.
The National Education Policy Act 27 of 1996 stresses parental
choices
and
responsibilities,
and
strategies
have
been
developed to encourage parental participation at home and at
school and to link home and school more effectively. However,
little knowledge exist regarding the part that the children play
in the process of parental involvement in education, although
it is the duty of the educator to equip learners with the
strategies to involve their parents. The researcher has realized
that
in
the
black
communities
many
parents
compartmentalize their lives and do not play any role in their
1
children’s education. Therefore, the researcher intends to
develop or propose strategies to be used.
Most parents cannot relate their children’s poor performance
to their lack of interest in their children’s work (Lorgat,
2003:4). The display of disinterest in and the ignorance of
parents regarding learner performance in Mankweng circuit
schools is a problem that warrants investigation.
2. PROBLEM STATEMENT
The problem of minimal parental involvement in the education
of learners in Mankweng circuit, has reached alarming
proportion to the extent that even the standard of education
has dropped. As a result, the impact of parental involvement
on learner performance has become a concern to educators,
department officials, and school managers who are continually
extending invitation to parents to be involved in the education
of their children in order to improve learner performance.
Hence the main research question: What is the impact of
parental involvement on learner performance?
3. SIGNIFICANT OF THE STUDY
The study’s significance lies in the facts that:
2
? It will indicate that parental involvement can be used as
a strategy to improve learner performance.
? It will indicate why parents are not involved in the
education of their children.
? It will also show how stakeholders perceive parental
involvement as an influence in learner performance.
In
this
regard,
production
of
the
study
knowledge
will
in
contribute
the
field
towards
of
the
Education
Management.
4. RESEARCH QUESTIONS
As mentioned above, the main research question will focus on
the impact of parental involvement on learner performance.
The following sub-questions arise:
• What is parental involvement?
• What are the perceptions of stakeholders regarding
parental involvement?
• How can learner performance be improved?
• Who should be accountable for parental involvement?
• Which strategies can be used in improving learner
performance?
• To what extent does parental involvement influence
learner performance?
3
5. AIM AND OBJECTIVES
These flow from the above questions.
• To investigate causes which hinder learner performance.
• To investigate why parents are not always involved in the
education of their children.
• To
investigate
perceptions
of
stakeholders
regarding
parental involvement as a strategy in schools.
• To identify strategies which can be used to improve learner
performance.
• To find out who should be accountable for parental
involvement.
6. DELIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
The study was carried out on six schools in the Mankweng
circuit of education situated in the Mankweng area, in the
East of Polokwane city, located in Limpopo Province. This lies
in the far North of South Africa.
7. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
The theoretical framework for this study is based on the theory
of parental involvement advocated by researchers such as
Epstein (1991) and Long (1986). Parental involvement implies
that parents participate in one or more of the school’s
4
activities such as attending parent- teacher conferences,
Parent- teacher association meetings, volunteering for school
activities,
assisting
their
children
with
homework
and
encouraging the child to greater achievement.
The South African Schools Act, 1996 (Act No. 84 of 1996)
supports the researcher’s topic by stating that parents must
take an active interest in their children’s school work and
make it possible for the children to complete their school work.
National Education Act, 1996 (Act No. 27 of 1996) likewise
addresses parental involvement in the monitoring of home
education. It states that; “Parents must keep evidence of
continuous assessment of the learner’s work, which reflects
the learner’s progress towards achieving the outcomes of the
learning programme”.
An example of how parental involvement theory works in
education is seen at Toronto primary school in Mankweng
circuit in Limpopo Province, South Africa. The school was
established in 1992 in a form of a shack. Parents were
concerned about this situation. They made proposals to build
school by applying to private companies for donations.. The
Independent Development Trust (IDT) offered the parents R1,5
million, provided that all the parents together would pay 10
percent of the amount. The parents did so and the school was
erected. The school is now like one of the former “Model C
5
schools”. Parents also initiated the concept that the school
should use English as a medium of instruction and that
Science should be implemented as from grade one. The school
was a pioneer in the circuit as regard to parental involvement
and is a well-known academic institution in Limpopo because
of parent support. The standard of education is high because
consultation with parents is seen as a priority. The school
seems to have reached this high standard owing to the
influence of Parental Involvement Theory.
8. DEFINITION OF BASIC CONCEPTS
8.1. Impact
According to Gornby (1995) impact denotes “The action of one
object coming forcibly into contact with another – A marked
effect or influence”. The effect, acceptable unacceptable or of
an incident or a system, operation, schedule, or cost. An
unacceptable impact is an impact deemed by the system
owner to degrade an essential mission, capability, function or
system causing unacceptable results.
In the present study, impact signifies the effect or the
influence of one thing on another, for example where parents
can be influenced by some factor to be involved or not to be
involved in their children’s education.
6
8.2. Parental involvement
Parental involvement has been defined in many different ways.
Such factors as economics, education, time constraints,
culture and socio- economic status will determine the level of
parental involvement. According to Epstein (1991:63) parental
involvement has been defined as parenting, communicating,
volunteering,
learning
at
home,
decision-making,
and
collaborating with the community. In the current study,
parental involvement implies that parents participate in one or
more schoolteacher activities such as those mentioned in
chapter 7 above. The South African Schools Act, 1996 (Act
No.84 of 1996), supports the researcher’s study, as does the
National Education Policy Act, 1996 ( Act No.27 of 1996) when
it
says;
“Parents
must
keep
evidence
of
continuous
assessment of their children’s work.
In these Acts term “parent” refers to parents, guardians,
stepparents, siblings, members of the extended family, and
any other adult who might carry the primary responsibilities
for a child’s health, development and education. Therefore all
references to parents, family and their involvement are
applicable to all adults who play an important role in a child’s
home life.
7
8.3. Learner performance
In this study “learner performance” relates to learner’s
achievements in their learning process. Tests are employed to
assess the learner programme in order to determine how many
schools are meeting instructional standards. These tests are
administered and scored individually.
Learners can be described and classified according to their
level of performance in their learning process. The five levels
identified by Pacific Crest are as follows:
? Increasing level of performance, trained individuals – who
have developed a specific knowledge base, with specific
skills for a specific context.
? Learner individuals – who have acquired a broad base of
general knowledge and can apply it to related contexts.
? Lifelong learners – who has developed motivation to selffacilitate their ongoing learning and can apply it to a
variety of context.
? Enhanced learners- those who have developed a high
level of performance skills and actively seek knowledge
and contexts for applying it in a constantly changing
environment.
? Self-growers – who continually grow by using strong selfassessment skills to improve future performance. The
following features characterize this highest level of
learner performance: creating their own challenges,
8
serving as leaders and mentors to others, taking control
of their destiny.
7. RESEARCH PROGRAMME
Chapter one comprises an outline of the background to the
problem, the problem statement, the significance of the study,
aims and objectives, delimitation, theoretical framework,
definition of concepts and the research programme
Chapter two offers a literature review.
Chapter three focuses on research methodology.
Chapter four concentrates on data analysis and interpretation
of data.
Chapter five comprises findings and recommendations and
concludes the study.
9
CHAPTER TWO
LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1 Introduction
When schools collaborate with families to support learning,
children are inclined to succeed not just in school, but also
through life. Three decades of research performed by Hanafin
and Lynch (2002:37) have shown that parental participation in
schooling improves learner learning. Such participation of
parents and families is critical not only in the very beginning
of the educational process, but also throughout the child’s
entire academic career.
Therefore, it is important to review the debates about the
meaning
of
parental
involvement,
types
of
parental
involvement, parental involvement in South African schools,
what other scholars have said on parental involvement in the
past and at present, the basic models of parental involvement
and the different roles played by the government in schools.
Parents are the child’s first teacher. They are an invaluable
resource. However, when children enter school many parents
begin to ask themselves how they can be positively involved in
their children’s education. They question the value of their
10
involvement.
Those
who
research
school-community
partnerships report that when the school welcomes parents
and shows them how to improve their child’s learning at home,
they are far more likely not only to increase their student
numbers but also to (Epstein, 1991:102)
In the present context the word re-views means to look at the
“literature” (the reports of what others have done) in a related
area. According to Leedy (1980:64), the function of literature
review derives from a fundamental position among researchers
that the more one knows about other investigations germane
to one’s own study, the more knowledgeably one can approach
the problem inherent in one’s own area of investigation. The
purpose of reviewing is to assist the researcher in tackling his
or her topic for research. In most research, the research
problem is almost central. Whatever one does, assists to tackle
the problem. If one knows what others have done, one can
prepare to tackle, with deeper insight and more complete
knowledge, the problem one has chosen to investigate.
Leedy (1980:65) has described the benefits of reviewing the
literature as follows:
1. It can provide one with new ideas and approaches, which
may not have occurred before to one.
2. It can assist one to see his or her own study in historical
and associational perspective.
3. It can reveal sources of data, which one may not have
11
known to exist
4. It can suggest another method or technique of dealing with
a problematic situation, which may also suggest avenues of
approach to solution of similar difficulties, which one may
be facing.
5. It can assist in evaluating one’s research efforts by
comparing them with related efforts done by others.
6. It can introduce one to significant research personalities of
whose research efforts and collateral writings one may have
had no knowledge.
A researcher who conducts a complete literature review will
examine all research outlets (Newman 1997:91). Different
types of reports require different research strategies. When
reviewing, one should begin with scholarly journals because
they are the place in which most reports appear and represent
the most crucial outlet. These journals differ by field and by
type. Most contain articles that report on research in an
academic field.
Lastly, the literature review allows different disciplines access
to the information in research reports. It shows the reviewer’s
familiarity with a body of knowledge, indicating the path prior
research has taken and how a current project is linked to it.
12
2.2 What is parental involvement?
Parental involvement has been defined in many ways. As
pointed out earlier, according to Epstein (1991:15), parental
involvement has been defined as parenting, communicating,
volunteering,
learning
at
home,
decision-making
and
collaborating with the community. Such factors as economics,
education, time constraints, culture, and socioeconomic status
will determine the level of parental involvement.
Moreover,
parental
involvement
implies
that
parents
participate in one or more school teacher activities such as
attending parent – teacher conferences, parent – teacher
associations
meetings,
volunteering
at
school,
assisting
children with homework, encouraging the child to better
attainment.
Parental involvement has been shown to exert a positive
influence on the child’s school success. The web site
http://www.gwu.edu (2004:1of 7) indicates that, in order to
achieve maximum effectiveness, parents and teachers together
must take centre stage in the child’s educational process.
According to the African proverb, “It takes a whole village to
raise a child.” When parents are actively involved in their
children’s education, children tend to model their parent’s
attitudes and actions. Additionally, since parents serve as
13
advocates for within the school, they duly affect their
children’s development and school-wide reform.
According to Mkwanasi (1993:2), active parental involvement,
parents are directly or actively involved in schooling, for
example,
in
developing
vision
and
mission
statements,
planning and implementation of these and so forth. Most of
these activities consist of the academic development of
learners,
school
decision-making,
physical
resource
development, management, sustainable development and the
like.
Even though the terms “family”, “school”, “parents”, “parental
involvement” and “school and family partnership” have been
used for a very long time, parental involvement did not exist as
a field of study before the 1960s. According to Blanchard
(1998:56), the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of
1965 (ESEA) emphasized that parents should become more
engaged in their children’s education. Since then, much
research has been carried out parental involvement in South
Africa.
2.3 Parental Involvement in South African schools
Historically, according to Mkwanazi (1993:2), the apartheid
government used and abused the term “parental involvement”
14
in education in South Africa. The meaning of the term
changed according to the social factors of that time. For the
apartheid
state,
parental
involvement
largely
concerned
legitimating that government by means of decentralization and
devolution of financial responsibility. During those days, the
chief attempt made by the state to incorporate parents in the
administration and control of education was by means of the
Bantu Education Act of 1953. The then minister of Native
Affairs, Dr Verwoerd, argued that “Black parents in particular
should be made co-responsible for their children’s education
and that co-responsibility is two-fold, it is co-responsibility for
the control but associated with that is co-responsibility in
respect of finances” (Mkwanazi 1993:2). In other words the
government was using parents to legitimate its discriminatory
schooling policies.
The government expected parents to be passive participants.
However, the role of the parents should be to address the real
situation, not simply implementing someone’s views, without
first investigating as to what kinds of results will be expected
by their children. During the period of the struggle against
apartheid, which peaked with the school uprisings in Soweto
during 1976, the government was still attempting to use
parents to protect the apartheid education system. But this
strategy was no longer effective as parents mobilized and acted
as one community to defend and protect their young ones, and
15
the future of their education. The community, civic and
church leaders combined forces to struggle for a better
education for their children.
As far as parental involvement in their children’s schooling is
concerned, in North American society, it is common that the
children of families of teachers, nurses and other above
averagely educated people do as well as, if not better than,
others at school. Their home environment encourages these
children’s efforts in learning.
Christie
and
Collins
(1984:22)
argues
that:
“moral
degeneration at school must be addressed” She investigates
impoverished South African schools, which managed to
operate reasonably well, while those around them collapsed.
These schools strategize and make the best of the situations
they find themselves in so as to succeed against the odds. In
her discussion of the factors contributing to these schools’
success,
she
includes
school
governance
and
parental
involvement as factors that can be deployed to assist schools
to develop despite the odds.
3. Types of parental involvement
Although
there
are
many
classifications
of
parental
involvement types, Epstein’s classification appears to be the
16
most influential in parental involvement literature, and
therefore it is worthwhile to explore her classification in more
details. According to Epstein (1991:81) and her colleagues
from Johns Hopkins University, six types of involvement exist.
3.1.
Parenting
–
This
category
includes
the
basic
responsibilities of families such as providing housing, health
care, nutrition, clothing, and safety, and creating home
conditions that support children’s learning, for example,
purchasing the necessary books and being responsive to their
children, communicating with them and supporting their
development.
3.2. Communicating – This type of involvement concerns the
basic responsibilities of schools, including establishing twoway communication between the family and the school. These
kinds of involvement assume that schools keep parents
informed about school matters by sending them newsletters or
progress reports, visiting parents and employing other means
to communication.
3.3. Volunteering – Brent (2000:33) points out that the term
“volunteer” usually refers to persons who devote their spare
time
to
work
on
a
routine
basis
without
monetary
compensation, usually under the direction of a school
employee, in support of …
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