“Madam, hum apna kaam chhodkar nahi aa sakte hain. Agar mera bachcha padega toh achhi naukri lag jaayegi, warna jaise apna naseeb.” (Translation: Madam, we can’t leave our work and come to school. If my child studies well then he’ll get a good job. Else, it’s all up to fate.)
These were the responses Ms. Bhagya would often receive from parents when asked to attend her school’s Parent-Teacher Meetings (PTMs). As a school leader, she often found it challenging to convince parents that these meetings provide valuable insights into every child’s academic and non-academic performance.
“During one of the PTMs, nearly 70 percent of our parents didn’t show up,” she said. “This was a low point for all of us who organized the meeting, hoping to engage parents in an effective manner.”
In the 80+ affordable private schools that Mantra4Change works with, low parent engagement is a common issue. Her question, in every meeting with our School Transformation Leads (STLs), would remain the same – How can we bring more parents to our school?
This would often become a topic of discussion in our team meetings back at the office. When ideas started pouring in, we decided to theme our (then) upcoming School Leadership Forum on the lines of ‘Building Relationships’. Subsequently, we got teachers at the forum to participate in discussions around ‘Building relationships with parents to increase engagement for student development.’
School leaders along with the team brainstormed on solutions like inviting parents for school events, sending updates of different interventions etc. to attract parents to the school more effectively. Bhagya ma’am was extremely happy and excited to take these suggestions from the session back to her school.
Post SLF, she came up with the idea of having student presentations and activities as part of the upcoming PTM.
Giving this a deeper thought, Ms. Bhagya realized that the reason parents weren’t showing up is because most of them were daily wage earners. The unaffordability in taking a day’s leave to attend the PTM would be taxing. Conducting the PTM on a Sunday seemed like a prudent option for her.
The next challenge was convincing her teachers to work on a Sunday. Ms. Bhagya introduces the compensatory off policy in her school, allowing teachers the freedom to choose their day off.
Excitement loomed large over the school as everyone joined in with excitement to organize the Sunday (August 12) PTM. It was time to introduce parents to new interventions in the school.
The Sunday PTM
From over 70% of parents not showing up for the PTM earlier; this time, there was an attendance of more than 90% of the parents!
They enjoyed the activities and presentations given by students. Parents were involved in finding possible solutions to the problems of students’ learning in classrooms. It was the most successful PTM with the highest recorded participation till date.
An evolving community of teachers and parents for student development
One empathetic step taken by the school leader for parents developed a chain reaction of empathy among all stakeholders.
This is a new start of a collaboration between parents and teachers that will ultimately lead to the overall development of students. We hope this will also mark an effective growth in student learning.