|Parents and Learning (IAE - IBE, 2000, 36 p.)|
When the families of children in a school associate with one another, social capital is increased, children are watched over by a larger number of caring adults, and parents share standards, norms and the experiences of child-rearing.
In many societies, bonds of community no longer envelop the families of children who happen to attend the same school. This means that parents do not necessarily associate with one another away from the school, and their contact with one another in connection with the school is very limited. As a consequence, children spend their school days sitting next to, influencing and being influenced by other children, yet the parents of these children do not know one another. Many children spend a great portion of their out-of-school hours alone or with other children, not under the supervision of caring adults. Children benefit when the adults around them share basic values about child-rearing, communicate with one another, and give the children consistent support and guidance. Social capital, the asset available to children that resides in the relationships among adults in their lives, depends upon face-to-face association of these adults. A school that views itself as a community of its constituents (school personnel, students, families of students), rather than an organization, is more likely to encourage the social interactions that lead to the accumulation of social capital.
A school is capable of forming and nurturing community among its constituents - school personnel and the families of its students. A framework for building a school community will include ways to articulate commonly held values about education, draw parents together with other parents and with teachers, and enable the school to function as an institutional champion of the families educational desires for their children. Elements of a programme to enhance community in a school would include:
· Representation: Parents are included in decision-making groups at the school.
· Educational values: Parents and teachers together articulate the educational values common to the school, and the schools goals and its expectations of students, teachers and parents flow from these shared values.
· Communication: Two-way communication between the home and the school is afforded through a variety of means, including parent/teacher/student conferences, telephone conversations, notes and assignment notebooks.
· Education: Education programmes for teachers and parents are provided in order to constantly improve everyones ability to help children succeed.
· Common experience: All students, and often their parents and teachers, are engaged in collective events or connected to common strains in the educational programme that unite them and allow them to share common educational experiences.
· Association: The school arranges opportunities for groups of school-community members to associate with one another, particularly for reasons relative to the purposes of the school. For example, groups of parents with other parents, groups of parents and teachers, younger students with older students, and intergenerational mentoring between students and adult volunteers (including grandparents).
When a school decides to reach out to the community to tap resources, it is wise to first determine its students unmet needs, then approach community organizations to negotiate the delivery of services that might meet these needs. Student needs not easily met by the schools own resources might include: basic family needs (clothing, food, housing, child care); health needs (vaccination, examination, dental care); behavioural therapy; recreation; tutoring; psychological testing; mentoring; equipment for disabilities; respite care; opportunities relative to special talents or interests (scientific, musical, artistic, athletic, literary). Once student needs have been listed and matched with a catalogue of community resources, students and their families can be systematically connected with appropriate services.
References: Coleman (1987, 1990); Etzioni (1993); Redding (1991); Sergiovani (1994).