14 SES 07 B, School Development by, with or against Parents? Experiences across Europe
In many European countries legislation has given parents an increased role especially in school choice and influencing school life. In the past, demands for more parental participation were guided by the call for greater democratization in schools. Currently, the pedagogical perspective is emphasized, i.e. not “separate responsibility” but “shared responsibility” for learning (cf. Epstein 1986; Wild & Lorenz 2010). As a result, parents are increasingly seen as active partners at school-level as well as more generally in their children’s educational and learning processes. However, when encouraging parents to become actively involved it has to be acknowledged that parents are not a homogenous group. Schools often complain about ‘hard to reach’ parents and tend to blame parents for their non-presence in schools and lack of interest in their children’s education. Whereas parental involvement policies tend to have a ‘one size fits all’ approach, schools need to be aware of different groups of parents.
Parents may be active in two different ways: in a more informal way by being involved in their children’s education through supporting their learning, providing help with homework and study, giving advice or by encouraging them in their school-work in general. Parental involvement can also happen in a more formal way through participation in school-based activities, in school-development processes and on official school boards or parents associations (Byrne & Smyth, 2010; Hughes, Wikeley & Nash, 1994). This symposium focuses on the more formal ways in which parental involvement takes place and takes a closer look at different kinds of engagement, activities and negotiation processes which happen in schools.
Research on this topic is available but difficult to compare. This depends on the one hand on the use of different theoretical concepts and methods, on the other hand on the different national backgrounds in which the formal ways of parental involvement are embedded. For grasping common ground the symposium will therefore look closer to the national situation. On the basis of the different school-laws in European countries the authors address different aspects of parental involvement in changing-processes in schools using various data (telephone interviews, qualitative interviews, document analysis) and methods of analysis (quantitative and qualitative analysis, objective hermeneutic).
From different points of view the symposium wants to discuss the following aspects in all presentations:
Legal background for parental-involvement in school-development processes
Efforts of schools in different European contexts to share with parents the responsibility for schooling
Role of parents in these different contexts
Challenges for schools and parents
Challenges for research
Byrne, D., & Smyth, E. (2010): Behind the Scenes? A Study of Parental Involvement in Post-Primary Education. Dublin: Liffey Press. Epstein, J.L. (1987): Toward an Integrated Theory of School and Family Connections. Report No. 3. Baltimore, MD: Center for Research on Elementary and Middle School. Hughes, M., Wikeley, F., & Nash, T. (1994): Parents and Their Children’s Schools. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishers. Wild, E., & Lorenz, F. (2010): Elternhaus und Schule. Paderborn: Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh.
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