14 SES 07 A, Home-school-community Links: relationships, choice & participation
School and family are brought together by a common goal: bringing up and educating new generations. This is a systemic process, in which countless factors play a part (from the wider social context and the regulatory framework to the personality of the child in question, and the culture present in the school and in the family itself). These various factors generate an interplay of reciprocal effects whose results cannot be predicted with any certainty. Furthermore, the borders between the areas of respective educative competence – of the school and of the family – have not been established definitively; at the edges, the spaces in which parents and teachers carry out their responsibilities and duties are irregular and uncertain in form, and are enmeshed with wider-reaching, social-cultural dynamics. The relationship between the behaviour of individuals (parents towards teachers), social orientation (neo-liberalism) and institutional frameworks (school markets) seems, in particular, to translate into scarce parental participation, a lack of adequate forms of home-school communication, and a need for investment in training parents and teachers (Dusi, 2014).
In the wake of the socio-cultural and economic changes that have swept the continent of Europe, the school-family relationship seems to have undergone a radical transformation, becoming more complex in the process. Studies carried out across a number of European countries have all identified an array of competing factors that determine school-family relations (Andonov, 2007; Auduc, 2007; Crozier, 1999, 2005; Ravn, 2005; Rabusicová, 2009; Smit & Driessen, 2009; Kryger & Ravn, 2009; Lahaye, Pourtois & Desmet, 2009; González-Falcón & Romero-Muñoz, 2010; Perregaux et al, 2011; Inglis, 2012). There are as many diverse realities as there are individual schools.
Myriad factors are at play but we might mention, to give an overall impression:
- the structural difference between the two institutions, school and family;
- the blurred borders between the tasks and responsibilities of each of these educative agents;
- the complexity of the educative role, and the unpredictable nature of the outcome of the educative act;
- the influence of the local context;
- the ‘individual’ factor (the personality and world view of the individuals involved).
In short, despite the fact that many studies have demonstrated that a good relationship between school and family can lead to a better programme of education for the child, the issue of parent-teacher relationships in Europe (and elsewhere), from Spain to Sweden, from Ireland to Greece, and from Italy to the Netherlands, still needs to be resolved.
In an attempt to understand the reasons for the complexity described above, this paper seeks to assess the validity of a hypothesis that emerges from our analysis of the international studies conducted in this area (i.e. Epstein, 2010, 2012; Deslandes, 2009; etc.). This hypothesis states that the school-family relationship is inherently difficult due to the complex nature of the educative role, whatever the socio-cultural and regulatory framework may be (Dusi, 2013). Therefore, the principal objective of this study is to provide a broader vision of the school-family relationship by taking the wider European perspective into account, and to determine whether there are recurring elements that characterise this encounter, namely, whether it is reasonable to speak of the essence of this relationship in terms of something that exists beyond cultural, institutional and legislative differences.
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