Parental Involvement in Children’s Education: Benefits, Challenges, and Ways Forward

Thavrith Sara
Cambodian Education Forum
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

© Cambodian Education Forum 2021
K. Heng, S. Kaing, D. Kao, M. Muong, B. Doeur, & T. Lor (Eds.), Online learning during COVID-19 and key issues in education. https://cefcambodia.com/books/

Introduction

It is quite appealing that parental involvement plays a pivotal role in students’ academic performance. Parental involvement, in general, has been believed to have a great deal of positive influences on students’ academic success. According to Ngoun (2012), students’ achievement is strongly linked to parents’ engagement in their study regardless of their economic capital or social backgrounds; additionally, the presence of parental involvement is more important than their economic capital because parents’ capital does not automatically guarantee students’ academic success. Hence, to ensure children’s future well-being, parents have to be involved in their children’s studies no matter how little they might be able to.

This chapter focuses on the advantages of parental involvement in children’s education. It raises three main benefits: (a) improving children’s study motivation, (b) enhancing education quality, and (c) fostering children’s academic success. The chapter also discusses key barriers to parental involvement and provides some useful suggestions on how parental involvement can be encouraged in the Cambodian educational context, especially in the context of children’s education.

What Is Parental Involvement?

First of all, a definition of parental involvement is necessary. Balli (2016) mentioned that parental involvement is a broad concept, but parents have responsibilities for their children’s improvement in education and social aspects. Parents may have different strategies to assist their children’s learning. Though it might be challenging to keep their engagement with their children’s learning, they should be more than ready to offer their help when their children need it.Hoover-Dempsey et al. (2001) also noted that parental activities may vary from parents to parents, ranging from simple responses to teachers’ requests to more engagements on school programs designed to increase students’ learning time at home. Their involvement toward their children’s learning usually shows their own expectations and beliefs on what should be done for schooling. Moreover, they are involved in their children’s study because it is wanted, and they are convinced that their involvement may make a difference.

According to Driessen et al. (2005), there are two kinds of parental involvements: school-initiated and parent-initiated. The former is when schools provide extra resources in order to support students’ learning and keep parents in contact, while the latter is when parents provide their own support to their children. However, Fan and Chen (2001) argued that the definition of parental involvement is unclear and inconsistent across different studies as it is very complicated to draw a general conclusion on its meaning, especially with the differences of operational definitions and measurement of parental involvement. To sum up, parental involvement is when parents offer their support and help physically and mentally whenever their children need it, no matter how little their support might be available to their children.

The Importance and Benefits of Parental Involvement

Parents can be involved in some small tasks such as checking homework, persuading children to join extracurricular activities, being active in parent-teacher meetings, and assisting their children in developing future learning plans. These can tremendously help their children to achieve academic success (Khajehpour & Ghazvini, 2011). There are a lot of benefits that can be gained from parental involvement in children’s learning. Three main benefits are discussed in this chapter.

Improving Children’s Study Motivation

Gonzalez-DeHass et al. (2005) argued that when parents took part in their children’s education, the children were prone to be more responsible for their learning. In addition, they were able to adopt a mastery goal orientation where they could take on more challenging work and get a sense of satisfaction in their work. For example, when parents got involved in their children’s reading activities, the children could read more effectively and efficiently. Children were also likely to participate in the activities voluntarily, and they felt more motivated to work on their tasks. Yulianti et al. (2019) also mentioned that parents could provide motivational support to enhance their children’s academic success despite their limited educational levels and socioeconomic status. Some parents are not well educated, and they might have some financial problems. However, parents can give their children praise when they do well in school, and if they do not do well, parents can convince them to try harder and do better next time.

Enhancing Education Quality

Werf et al. (2001) claimed that parental involvement is a useful initiative and an important factor in improving the quality of education, especially in developing countries. In Singapore, parental involvement used to be seen as unnecessary; however, since the late 1990s, it has received support and promotion from schools, parents, and the community (Khong & Ng, 2005). This has contributed to the success of the Singaporean education system. Likewise, it is particularly fascinating to look at parental involvement in Japan, where children consistently get good academic achievement. Japanese parents are highly motivated to assist their children’s academic development, and various forms of parental involvement take place during their children’s studies (Holloway et al., 2008).

In Cambodia, however, parents have been found to pay less attention to their children’s learning, resulting in a high dropout rate of Cambodian students (Eng et al., 2016). Without sufficient parental involvement, many Cambodian students had to rely on their own individual motivation. Nonetheless, parent investment and interaction with schools were considered as additional reasons facilitating Cambodian students’ academic success (Inman et al., 2019). Therefore, as one of the developing countries in the world, Cambodia has to increase the quality of its education. It needs to take into account the role of parental involvement in education.

Fostering Children’s Academic Success

According to Herrell (2011), in spite of sharing some similar and different thoughts on the effectiveness of parental involvement, both parents and educators believed that in order to foster academic success for all students, they need to enhance parental engagement in various ways. An educational partnership can foster mutual respect, advance shared interests, and facilitate communication between parents, teachers, and schools; moreover, this partnership can improve and support each other’s skills in order to produce a significant result for children’s improvement (Driessen et al., 2005). Sapungan (2014) also stated that

[…] parent-teacher partnership makes tremendous impact on children’s education. Conversely, the strong collaboration of parents with school authorities can create “tsunami of improvements” in both physical and academic performance of the school. Hence, school administrators have to boldly encourage parents to get involved and make “storm surge of contribution” to help achieve the school’s missions and goals. (p. 45)

Cole (2008), similarly, noted that language students are likely to have a better academic performance when they receive more parental input and involvement. Students can be more exposed to the target language both in quality and quantity when their parents also try to use the language with them at home. In short, students’ academic success can be achieved when parents get involved in their children’s learning. Despite this, there are many barriers to parent involvement in children’s learning.

Challenges to Parental Involvement

Most parents would like to help their children learn, but they may not be able to do so due to various challenges. First, there are financial problems and limited access to learning materials considered key barriers that obstruct parental involvement. Hornby and Lafaele (2011) argued that parental involvement is a complicated matter as it is shaped and limited by many barriers which are related to parents and families, children, teachers, and social issues. In order not to affect the effectiveness of parental involvement, educators should clearly understand these underlying factors. Second, Yulianti et al. (2019) noted that parents with a low level of education tended to see themselves as incapable and not self-efficacious as they did not have flexible working hours and they faced financial issues, preventing them from being actively involved in their children’s learning. The researchers also pointed out that working-class parents might have many troubles in their life, especially an economic struggle, as they tended to think that their primary life task was to fulfill their children’s basic needs such as providing food and accommodation. As a result, children of working-class parents tended to spend their leisure time doing fun activities that were arranged by themselves or by their friends because their parents did not have much time and resources for them. For Cambodian parents, they also faced financial challenges, as they had to pay for private classes and additional fees frequently charged by teachers for test booklets and other study materials used in class (Inman et al., 2019).

Lastly, as Öztürk (2013) claimed, limited English proficiency and cultural differences could also be barriers to parental involvement. Therefore, teachers and schools have to find appropriate methods to get parents more involved in their children’s learning because children can overcome different barriers by working collaboratively with their parents. Cultural beliefs can also be a great barrier to parental involvement in the context of Cambodia. According to Eng et al. (2014), for example, the main reason for low school participation and limited involvement of Cambodian parents in their children’s studies is a cultural belief rather than ignorance. Many parents tend to believe that their children’s academic success is controlled by fate, so they do not want to take part in engaging in their children’s studies. This is not the correct way of thinking. In the past, many parents used to believe that girls should not pursue higher education, and they should just be a good housewife. This kind of belief needs to be gotten rid of in order to promote parental involvement in children’s education.

Ways Forward to Promote Parental Involvement

According to UNICEF (2018), regardless of the limited financial resources, Cambodian parents can play an active role in guaranteeing their children’s participation in school and ensuring their children’s devotion to self-study at home. The report by UNICEF (2018) also pointed out that Cambodian parents valued parents-teacher meetings. Around 88% of them attended the meeting, for they believed that they could understand their children’s academic progress throughout the meeting. This clearly shows that Cambodian parents have relatively high aspirations for their children’s academic participation or performance. Balli (2016) also noted that parents knew that they should involve more with their children’s studies instead of just signing documents required by their children’s school.

Additionally, some parents might not ask for cooperation, but schools should try to empathize with them and try to understand their perceptions. Procedures and practices should be implemented to inform and involve parents to be a crucial part of school structures (Balli, 2016). Schools can have extracurricular programs in which parents can participate with their children. Regular parent-teacher meetings should also be conducted. Having parents involved in school decision-making can give them a sense of responsibility for their children’s learning.

Additionally, parents should be regularly informed of their children’s academic progress. Sapungan (2014) strongly believed that when a school can conduct well-planned activities that parents could be involved in, it can provide a lot of positive and substantial benefits to children, parents, educators, and the school itself. It is of utmost importance that parents are given enough support from the school so that they can fully assist their children’s education. Sothan (2018) also argued that Cambodian schools should implement programs that contribute to the enrichment of the parent-school relations to promote students’ academic performance, for schools alone are not enough to promote student learning. In this regard, parental involvement is a potential prerequisite for guaranteeing students’ academic success.

Furthermore, parental involvement should be effectively done. Werf et al. (2001) claimed that there are some activities that could be undertaken by parents to be effectively involved in their children’s studies. These include assisting their children’s homework completion, convincing them to read more, developing their children’s attitudes toward learning and school, having their children attend school daily, helping the school financially and materialistically, maintaining the school order, and supporting the school policy. These activities can be easily done by parents. As Herrell (2011) stated,

To ensure effective parental involvement, schools may have partnership programs in place that continually develop, implement, evaluate, and improve plans and practices encouraging family and community involvement. There must be mutual trust and respect between the home, school, and community. Partnership programs within the school could train volunteers on specific ways and strategies to assist in the classroom or school. With this type of training, all volunteers would know the expectations and have a better understanding of the operations of the school. Schools need to attempt to involve numerous parents and community members in the education of students through effective partnership programs in an effort of expressing the importance of education. (p. 99)

In sum, schools should let parents know that collaboration between schools and parents has to take place to benefit children’s education. According to Arias and Campbell (2008), policymakers are recommended to (1) encourage the implementation of traditional parental involvement programs that are culturally and linguistically appropriate, (2) fund the programs that show a reflection of reciprocal involvement of school and parents, (3) support the professional teachers’ preparation for curriculum design and improvement, and (4) foster community-based education programs that give parents information on school values and expectations. These could help parents become advocates for their children’s learning. Therefore, in the context of Cambodia, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport shall initiate a campaign that can encourage all stakeholders and the local community to put in more efforts to encourage parents to actively engage in their children’s studies, which can promote lifelong learning and contribute to improving the Cambodian education system (Nhek, 2021). To promote better parental involvement, the above approaches should be considered by the Education Ministry and other relevant stakeholders.

Conclusion

In conclusion, parental involvement can greatly benefit the education of their children. Therefore, in order to ensure its effectiveness and bring about the best learning outcome for their children, parents should always have good partnerships with their children’s teachers and school. They should also free some of their time to contribute to their children’s learning by assisting their children in doing homework, joining parent-teacher meetings, and praising their work. For schools, they need to be aware of parents’ diverse backgrounds and other barriers preventing them from being actively involved in their children’s studies. Schools should also find ways to facilitate communication with parents to ensure that the latter are on track with their children’s learning progress. Last but not least, as many parents in Cambodia are faced with different challenges, including the economic challenge and the many challenges induced by the COVID-19 pandemic, schools and other concerned stakeholders such as private companies should offer scholarships or other support to mitigate the struggle faced by Cambodian parents. The aim is to ensure that parents of Cambodian children, particularly those with low socioeconomic status, are supported and empowered so that they can actively participate in shaping and ensuring the success of their children’s education.

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