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close this bookParents and Learning (IAE - IBE, 2000, 36 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe International Academy of Education - IAE
View the documentSeries preface
View the documentIntroduction
View the document1. The curriculum of the home
View the document2. The parent/child relationship
View the document3. The routine of family life
View the document4. Family expectations and supervision
View the document5. Homework
View the document6. School/home communication
View the document7. Parental involvement
View the document8. Parent education
View the document9. Family/school relationships
View the document10. Families and communities
View the documentReferences
View the documentBack Cover

9. Family/school relationships

Because families vary in their relationship to schools, schools must use different strategies to engage all families in the learning lives of their children.

Research findings

Family/school relationships may be viewed as corresponding to three historical phases of economic development. In the first phase, typical of agricultural societies, but also of some families in all societies, the family lives at a subsistence level, relying on children for work (or, more commonly in modern States, for emotional comfort). In this situation, the family may limit the educational potential of the child, and the school’s role is to expand the possibilities for the child’s development. In the second phase, common to the industrial economy, the goals of the family and the school converge, with both institutions seeking the improvement of the child’s ultimate economic situation. In the third phase, that of post-industrial affluence, parents find the demands of child-rearing competing with the pursuits of their adult lives. They expect the school to fill the void.


In modern societies, we find all three types of families described in the previous paragraph. Placing any family in a category can be an injustice to that family, but characterizing common family situations and strategies for engaging them can be instructive.


Some families, usually those living in poverty, are severely pressed by the demands of everyday life. They often possess limited parenting skills, lack social contacts and have access to few models of good child-rearing practices. They may be intimidated by teachers and see the school as a bearer of bad news. They are likely to perceive that they are targets of discrimination. Parent education programmes that show them how to relate to their children are helpful, but first they need genuine, personal expressions of goodwill from school personnel and other parents. They must be engaged within a non-threatening, positive and supportive social context, often provided by other parents rather than by school personnel.


The child-centred family understands the necessity of schooling to the economic betterment of their children. These families often fear that the school is inadequately attentive to their children. They are frustrated by what they perceive as negative social influences, and they may cast aspersions upon other parents, whom they see as lax and uncaring. On the other hand, these parents are willing to work for their children’s school, provide leadership among parents, and serve as surrogate parents for neglected children. They are best engaged by giving them constructive roles in the school and opportunities to work with other parents. The challenge for the school is to channel the efforts of child-centred parents toward activities that benefit the academic and personal development of their own children and of other children. Child-centred parents make wonderful leaders for parent education programmes.


Busy professional parents value schooling but are sometimes so absorbed by their careers and personal interests that they are disengaged from close involvement in their children’s lives. To compensate, they place their children in the best schools, thus entrusting their children to what they see as competent, hired professionals. They do the same in other aspects of their children’s lives, providing experiences for their children through programmes and services they employ. These talented, well-connected parents possess financial resources, education, social contacts and professional skills. They must be re-engaged with their children by means that are nearly spiritual. Their conversion comes through the heart. If directed into intimate relationships with their children, they are reminded of the satisfaction that they deny themselves by relegating childrearing responsibilities to others.

References: Coleman & Hus(1985); Redding (1991); Taylor (1994).