Increased Parental Involvement Improves the Child’s Learning and Development
By The EDge Editorial Team February 2021
“Parental involvement, in almost any form, produces measurable gains in student achievement.”
- Armendia Dixon
Research and evidence highlight that parental involvement in children’s schooling and learning results in higher academic achievement. This is especially true for children in foundational grades of 1-3 when they are picking up basic reading, writing and math skills. On an average, consistent parental engagement helps children achieve about four additional months’ progress in a year1. Along with academic success, parental involvement leads to more stable socio-emotional and cognitive development, and higher self-esteem2. It also results in higher attendance and retention, and positive behaviour at home as well as school3.
What is Parental Involvement?
Parental involvement comes in myriad forms: enrolling children into schools, ensuring attendance, signing them up for coaching, spending some time reading with them at home, helping them with homework, and attending parent-teacher meetings. However, involvement in home-based learning activities (over activities undertaken by parents in relation to school like volunteering for school events) have been found to have more positive bearing on a child’s learning and development4. This was true regardless of parents’ income or background.5
‘Nudging’ Parents Impacts Children’s Learning and Development
Emerging evidence on frequent and consistent information provision to parents points to positive impact on children’s attention, retention, and test scores. When a school or staff members send information to parents using low-cost technology like phones, these messages act as a ‘nudge’ for parents to be more involved. For example, scholars and practitioners Peter Bergman and Eric W. Chan automated gathering and provision of information via text messages to parents about their child’s absences, missed assignments, and low grades6. Their field experiment of sending alerts reduced course failures by 27%, increased class attendance by 12%, and increased retention by 1.5%.
Another randomized controlled trial in the United States tested the outcomes of sending personalized and differentiated messages to parents of kindergarten children7. The messages were personalized to reflect specific knowledge about each child’s skills basis their performance, and differentiated by ensuring that the suggested activities align with the child’s skill levels. The trial concluded that differentiation and personalization caused students to be 63% more likely to move up a reading level than their peers in the general program.
Both these studies establish a positive impact on a child’s learning and development on varied metrics with increased parental involvement. While most research and evidence on parental involvement come from outside India, the basic tenets like why it is important and the potential impact it has on children remains applicable to every household regardless of geography.
Driving Parental Engagement Using EdTech
The last year saw unprecedented disruption in traditional teaching and learning interactions due to the Covid-19 pandemic. About 320 million children in India were pushed out of brick-and-mortar classrooms to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. Everyone from the government(s), to teachers, to parents, to children switched to Educational Technology (EdTech) to ensure continued learning at home. This implies increased involvement of parents as they have up the mantle of teachers at home.
In the near future too after schools resume, parents will likely continue to be involved as we embrace a blended model of learning which mixes classroom instruction with EdTech for personalized learning at home. In the long term, as established above, it is preferable they remain involved regardless.
We recently released a report ‘Reimagining Education through Technology’ which deep-dives into global innovations in EdTech. Our analysis found that despite evidence that parental participation leads to positive outcomes, there are few EdTech products that cater to parents. Even investment is relatively low when compared to other teaching-learning interactions using technology. The silver lining is that many organizations in India are working in this space. We might soon have a pipeline of solutions that encourage different facets of parental participation.
Historically, technology-based parental participation platforms have focused on building pathways for communication between parents and teachers, or simply sharing activities for the child to do at home. But we are now seeing the emergence of innovative platforms that inform parents why they must engage and how best to do it. These new platforms are helping parents become educators by building their capacity to engage more meaningfully with their children. For example, TopParent, a free app in India that hosts three other apps within it, equips parents with skills and resources to support their children learning at home. From high-quality content in vernacular languages to customized report cards on a child’s progress within the app, TopParent is empowering parents to help their children.
More and more, platforms are encouraging two-way communication instead of being one-way and merely instructive. Non-profit organizations like Rocket Learning and Saarthi have taken advantage of the ubiquitous smartphone to build a digital community using WhatsApp. Rocket Learning underscores the importance of two-way communication enabled by WhatsApp wherein parents and children can be engaged in discussions as opposed to simply receiving worksheets.8
Technology as an Opportunity
Whether using messages to ‘nudge’ parents, or reading a comprehension passage on an app, technology can encourage parental involvement in different shapes and forms. There is no one strait-jacket solution for every household, and increasingly EdTech solutions are taking cognizance of that and targeting specific facets of parental involvement. And while this article highlights the scope of EdTech in encouraging parental participation, it is not restricted to EdTech. Even counting tomatoes with children in the kitchen account for involvement in learning activities. It’s just that technology today is all pervasive and a powerful enabler in making it happen.