Toward effective parental engagement

We read, hear and speak at lengths about the importance of parental involvement in a child’s education. Yet, one of the most common issues that our schools continue to grapple with is being able to get parents to increase their engagement with the school. Bringing children back to school is not the only goal. Our education system perhaps needs to focus on bringing parents into schools as well.

It starts with us realizing that parents can play such crucial roles while encouraging children to create their own educational paths and learn independently. As stakeholders, this responsibility doesn’t lie with the school alone.

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Mr. Nageswara Rao, the leader of our partner, Siddhartha School made headway by realizing that parents constitute an entire pillar in the education space. However, as is the case with most under-resourced schools, anywhere in the country, the greatest barrier standing in between parents and the school is that of illiteracy.

We began working with schools in the village of Tenali (Guntur, Andhra Pradesh) in early 2018. Besides the fact that the school is under-resourced, parents of the school are mostly farmers who spend most of their time in the fields, having very little of it to support their children.

While discussing the issue of parental engagement with Mr. Nageswara, he acknowledged that parents need to know what is happening in the school. After all, it does take a village to raise a child – how can the community be involved if parents aren’t?

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This led us to list the issues that keep parents at a distance from their children’s education. One that struck us most was the inability to conduct interactive and engaging Parent-Teacher Meetings (PTM). Up until this point, a PTM would entail the school leader talking and the parents listening. Breaking this pattern was Mr. Nageswara’s first plan of action.

Integrating MANTRA’s host of activities that would ensure a successful PTM, the idea was to make this event meaningful with a little bit of fun. Involving teachers and students was felt imperative while the agenda was to set clear expectations with parents on how they could be an effective part of their children’s education.

From discourses on child care, using mobile phones and fee structures to fun-filled activities like treasure hunts, quiz and Ganith Mala for parents – the PTM not only had an amazing turnout of parents but they left the school with smiles on their faces and enthusiasm in their spirits. A bond between them and the school was indeed established.

“It was when these parents came to me towards the end of the meeting and asked – “Sir, when is the next PTM?” –  that I was filled with all the hope and excitement to let these parents in on our journey towards improving the quality of education our children receive!” said an elated Mr. Nageswara Rao.

Parents were completely engaged and involved in activities, they positively responded to the expectations from them, they were on board with the idea and next steps they need to do for good learnings at home.

By Tejas Bhagat, School Transformation Lead, Mantra4Change

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