Scholarly article on topic 'Pilot Study: Parents in Relation to Primary School - The Needs and Attitudes'

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Abstract of research paper on Economics and business, author of scientific article — Yveta Pechackova, Jana Marie Havigerova, Lucie Jezkova, Martina Kucerova

Abstract The paper concerns the results of the pilot study where the aim was to survey opinions, needs and attitudes of parents to primary education. This is a quantitative research, for which purposes a custom designated questionnaire was chosen. The research sample consisted of parents of pupils from the first year of two primary schools, an innovative primary school (due to the organization and training methods) and a more typical type of primary school. A deliberate choice was performed. The aim of the pilot study was to determine the opinions and attitudes of parents in relation to the primary schools. The research findings will serve as the basis to build positive co-operation in specific schools and as a basis for innovation of contents of the co-operation with parents in primary education.

Academic research paper on topic "Pilot Study: Parents in Relation to Primary School - The Needs and Attitudes"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 69 (2012) 1983 - 1992

International Conference on Education and Educational Psychology (ICEEPSY 2012)

Pilot study: parents in relation to primary school - the needs

and attitudes

Yveta Pechackova*a1, Jana Marie Havigerovaa, Lucie Jezkovaa, Martina Kucerovaa

aDepartment of Primary and Pre-Primary Education, University of Hradec Kralove, Rokitanskeho 62, Hradec Kralove 500 03,

Czech Republic

Abstract

The paper concerns the results of the pilot study where the aim was to survey opinions, needs and attitudes of parents to primary education. This is a quantitative research, for which purposes a custom designated questionnaire was chosen. The research sample consisted of parents of pupils from the first year of two primary schools, an innovative primary school (due to the organization and training methods) and a more typical type of primary school. A deliberate choice was performed. The aim of the pilot study was to determine the opinions and attitudes of parents in relation to the primary schools. The research findings will serve as the basis to build positive co-operation in specific schools and as a basis for innovation of contents of the co-operation with parents in primary education.

© 2012TheAuthors.PublishedbyElsevier Ltd.

Selection andpeer-reviewunderresponsibilityof Dr. Zafer Bekirogullari of Cognitive - Counselling, Research & Conference Services C-crcs.

Keywords: needs, attitudes, opinions, co-operation, family and school, primary education

1* Corresponding author: Yveta Pechackova. Tel.: +4-204-933-31369; fax: +4-204-933-1313. E-mail address: yveta.pechackova@uhk.cz.

1877-0428 © 2012 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Dr. Zafer Bekirogullari of Cognitive - Counselling, Research & Conference

Services C-crcs.

doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.12.154

1. Introduction

The basic argument for developing the relationships between school and family is a repeatedly surveyed influence of family on educational results of children (Christenson, Sheridan 2001; Epstein, 2010). At present there is no underestimating the role of parents and overall family on the effects of the educational attainments of children, but still there are contradictions in the view of teachers and parents on the degree of co-operation, responsibility and mutual expectations (Rabusicova, 2004). The question arises, which factors in relations between school and family shall be applied to find a mutual consensus, which would become the cornerstone of building the participation of these institutions.

The issue of co-operation between school and family are an important part of education policy and it is often interpreted in the terms of school as an institution and from the perspective of the needs of class teachers, but it is interpreted less often from the perspective of the needs of parents. Earlier and recent studies (Rabusicova et al., 2004, Walter et al., 2010) find that the initiator of co-operation and opened partnership is a school that seeks to promote its priorities, while parents particularly expect information about their children's education. Similarly, the public view of an ideal school attribute the most important role to the cognitive field and does not even require intensive co-operation with parents (Walter, 2010). That brings new questions, such as to what extent is the effort for a co-operative open school supported by parents?

This paper aims to present the results of a pilot study in which parents of pupils of the first years of two primary schools express their attitudes and opinions of primary school and teachers via a questionnaire survey.

2. Theoretical bases

Primary school encroaches into the life of every generation and education is an essential part of society. The concept of education for the 21st century is presented by an open education system that is able to flexibly respond to changing educational needs. Claims on the achievement levels in education rise in proportion to the increasing demands of employers and economic growth. A school copes with changes in the content as well as the objectives of education, and instead of accumulating knowledge, the school leads to the acquisition of competences. The relationship of schools towards family also goes through development, which is perceived as a provision of service to a client (Rabusicova et al., 2004). The importance of strengthening mutual relations is pointed out by normal primary schools, especially by the concepts of a good effective school (Rydl, 2001), community schools (the concept of community schools is supported by the Ministry of Education) and schools with alternative education programs (e.g. Step by Step). These concepts generally reflect openness to all social partners in their programs. They aim from mutual relations and co-operation at participation, which thus becomes an important milestone of these concepts.

Social status of family and the ensuing level of conditions and presumptions to cope with the role of a school kid, have a significant impact on educational outcomes of children. Christensonova (2001) states that working relationships between a family and school can be described as a safe "network" that promotes learning and gaining experience, while working as a prevention of school failure. The higher the educational level of parents, the higher the socio-economic status of the family and this status affects the attention level of parents, which they focus on children and their education. Novackova (2006, p. 43) adds to it: "It means that the inequalities in a child's talents are accompanied by inequalities in the abilities of their family." A child has a right to a fair society and equal opportunities and school should balance the

social differences for example by giving them tasks corresponding to their abilities and the tasks should be handled without the help of parents. The results of the above-mentioned research (Walter et al., 2010, p. 107) show that a considerable part of the public and parents are aware of the shortcomings in the educational system that does not help to overcome the handicap resulting from a less stimulating family environment, but that "Education rather reinforces the inequalities between people." In this case, it is not a leveller of social differences, but actually deepens them.

Upon a child entering a school, families are under pressure (material, moral, psychological, institutional), which causes tension and complicates relationships. Parents choose a school for their child according to their discretion and have specific expectations in regard to the school. Mutual communication between a school and family is hampered by the specific conditions of family and their socio-economic status, education and skills of parents, experiences and differences in the interpretation of school situations with a child. In contrast, the difficulty of teachers' work increases, they feel compelled to increasingly individualize the approach to students. The apparent association with educational attainments of children is one reason why schools in their programs and on school websites initiate co-operation and partnerships with the parents of their pupils.

Partnership means an equal relationship in which the present actors are actively engaged. Can we in the context of Czech schools talk about an existing partnership between school and parents, or is it just an ideal image? Trnkova (In Rabusicova et al., 2004, p. 53) states that the possibility of such a relationship is questioned: "It is almost automatically assumed that parents accept teachers as experts in education and training. It is less obvious that teachers should also respect the experience of parents with the education of their children and accept them as enrichment for their work." In an equal relationship, it is assumed that both parties accept each other and are directed towards a common goal. The goal of both sides is the education of children, which can also be defined as a shared responsibility. Parents are important and unavoidable actors in the upbringing and education of their children, that's the reason why the partnership with school is so important.

3. Method

3.1. The research aims

Our research survey is inspired by the results of the above mentioned researches and it is aimed at primary schools where due to early education and curriculum content, there is a closer relation between teachers and the students' parents. The pilot study is part of the specific research conducted at the Institute of Primary and Pre-primary education of the Pedagogical Faculty in Hradec Kralove, where we focus on identifying the views and attitudes of parents to a particular primary school, on identification of needs and factors that are influenced by the attitudes of parents. In addition, we are interested in whether parents' expectations vary depending on the age of a child, therefore, our respondents are parents of children from the first and fifth grades of primary schools. At the end of the research a comparative analysis of the results from both schools will be carried out.

The aim of this pilot study is to explore the views, needs and attitudes of parents to primary education. The focus is the testimonies of the parents who have children in the first year of the two selected primary schools. Here we present the initial results of the survey, whose implementation began in April 2012 in collaboration with students of the Institute of Primary and Pre-primary Education of the Pedagogical Faculty in Hradec Kralove. We describe parents' attitudes and opinions towards primary school and teachers, which we obtained through a questionnaire survey.

3.2. The research methodology

The pilot study was conducted at two primary schools in the Eastern Region of the Czech Republic.

A deliberate choice of schools was conducted, which in their programs support work with the parents of their pupils and perceive it as an important part in a well functioning school.

The primary school which we described here as the first one, is located in a district town with 24,000 inhabitants, it is fully organized, it has a capacity of 500 pupils and part of the school is a school youth centre with a dining room. The school's philosophy is based on mutual respect between pupils and teachers, between teachers and parents, the emphasis is on a safe environment, positive social climate and development of pupils' intrinsic motivation. Pupils in first to fifth grade are graded with a verbal rating. The school uses less traditional teaching methods and forms, so in our research we relate to this school as an innovative school.

The second primary school is located in a county town with 94,000 inhabitants, in a residential place, it is fully organized, with a capacity of 900 students. The school includes a kindergarten, crèche and canteen. The school focuses on environmental education and sports activities for pupils. The school has a pupil parliament, School sports club and Club for school friends, through which parents can influence the activities of the school. This school is referred to as a normal type of school.

3.3. The research method

To meet the objectives of the project we chose a questionnaire of our own design as a research tool, which seemed to us to be the most suitable to identify the needs and attitudes of parents to school. A short salutation was developed at the beginning of the anonymous questionnaire, where the aim was to motivate respondents, familiarize them with the research and a request to participate in the questionnaire survey. The average length for filling in the questionnaire was estimated at 20 minutes based on the conducted pilot study. The questionnaire consisted of a total of 25 fields, of which 5 fields were identifying; we were interested in gender, education and age of a respondent, number and age of children in the family. Other fields included scale type questions (10), closed (5), semi-closed (3) and open (2). The responses were compiled using SPSS version 19. The questionnaires were distributed in person to the first-years of the above-mentioned primary schools, after prior arrangement with the Directors of the schools. The return was 90% in the innovative school and 69% in the normal school. In this pilot study the answers to questions are processed relating to the attitudes and opinions of parents of children from first grades regarding school and the class teacher.

3.4. The research group

The research group consisted of 60 parents of pupils from the first grades of the selected primary schools. As we expected, the respondents were mostly women, a total of 54 women and 6 men. 30 questionnaires were processed from each school, a total of 60 questionnaires. The entry concerning the age of the respondents were divided into five sub-fields, where we used the distribution of human age by Cap and Mares (2007): 1. Field - age between 21 to 28 years, 2. Field - age between 29 to 35 years, 3. Field - age between 36 to 42 years, 4. Field - age between 43 to 49 years and 5. Field - 50 years and above. Table 1 shows the age distribution of respondents. Most respondents (50 %) were in the second field, which is the age between 29 to 35 years, which corresponds with an average age of mothers at childbirth. As shown by the Czech Statistical Office, between 2006 and 2007 the average age of mothers at childbirth was 27 years.

Table 1. Age of respondents

Age Frequency Percent Cumulative Percent

1 4 6.7 6.7

2 30 50.0 56.7

3 24 40.0 96.7

4 2 3.3 100.0

Total 60 100.0

Table 2 shows the highest level of education of the respondents. Of the total of 60 respondents, 31 (51.7%) of respondents with secondary school education, 13 (21.7%) with a full university education, 8 (13.3%) with vocational education, 3 (5%) of respondents with higher vocational and bachelor's degree and two (3.3%) respondents have basic education. We can therefore say that the group of parents for the most part represented the middle class.

Table 2. Educational attainment of respondents

Education Frequency Percent Cumulative Percent

1 2 3.3 3.3

2 8 13.3 16.7

3 31 51.7 68.3

4 3 5.0 73.3

5 3 5.0 78.3

6 13 21.7 100.0

Total 60 100.0

In addition to the overall concept of the composition of respondents, we also investigated the number of children in the family, because in other part of the survey we would like to determine whether parental attitudes toward school may be affected by an experience of an older child etc. Table 3 shows that 48 (80%) of respondents have two children in the family, 9 (15.0%) have only one child, 2 (3.3%) respondents have three children and only one respondent has four or more children.

Table 3. Number of children

Number children of Frequency Percent Cumulative Percent

1 9 15.0 15.0

2 48 80.0 95.0

3 2 3.3 98.3

4 1 1.7 100.0

Total 60 100.0

4. Results

The results we present in this pilot study are related to the opinions and attitudes of parents towards school and teachers in general, this means that they express what school the parents want, how they view the main tasks of the school and the teacher's personality and their personal and professional competencies.

The first field, presented here, was conceived in a scale. It offered a choice of answers in a five-point scale. A question for parents was: "According to you, what responsibility does the school have in the education of children, and also what responsibilities do the parents have?" With this question we examined how parents perceive the division of responsibility. Table 4 shows the results in percentage. 66.7% of parents believe that the responsibility for educating children belongs equally to school and family, no parent of our research group believes that the education of the children is only the responsibility of the school. Furthermore, 55% of parents believe that family is more responsible for the upbringing of children, 25 % of parents see equal responsibility for the upbringing of the children in family and school, and 20 % of parents see this responsibility in the family. Although nearly 67% of respondents state the same responsibility for children's education in family as well as school, the role of schools in the overall distribution of statements is perceived as higher, while the role of the family is clearly seen in the field of upbringing.

Table 4. The responsibility for upbringing and education - the parents' view (percent)

Field Only family ,, . same More family ..... responsibility more school only school

Who is responsible for the education of children? Who is responsible for the upbringing of children? 3.3 20.0 8.3 66.7 55.0 25.0 21.7 0 0 0

The following field examined the parents' view towards school in general, and offered a range of possible responses as well as a space for personal expression. The question was: "What do you think are the main tasks of school?" The respondents were supposed to check the 4 most important things (activities, skills) that in their opinion a pupil should learn at school. Percentage representation of the main tasks of the school as perceived by the parents is shown in Table 5. According to the parents, four main tasks of the school are: 1. learning to learn - find and process information (73.3%), 2. learn to cooperate and get along with others (60%), 3. to impart maximum knowledge and skills to pupils (58.3%) and 4. To arouse interest in learning (48.3%). Only five percent of the parents believe that the task of school is to teach students to behave decently. This means that the issue of behaviour is seen more as a family task rather than the school (which is also evidenced by Table 4). The responses show that the parents are focused on achieving higher goals in education (learning to learn, pass the most knowledge, arouse interest in learning) than in the field of personal skills, such as obtaining a healthy self-esteem, the skill to discuss or respect authority.

Table 5. What do you think are the main tasks of school?

Tasks 0 1 Percent

to teach students to behave decently 57 3 5.0

to impart to students maximum knowledge and skills 25 35 58.3

learning to learn - find and process information 16 44 73.3

to learn to follow rules 48 12 20.0

to learn to respect authority 52 8 13.3

to learn to collaborate and get along with others 24 36 60.0

to prepare well for higher primary school 48 12 20.0

to learn to solve problems independently 33 27 45.0

to arouse interest in learning 31 29 48.3

to gain self-confidence 54 6 10.0

to learn how to defend their own opinions 44 16 26.7

to learn how to lead discussion 53 7 11.7

other ... 60 0 0.0

Another field was designed as a scale, it offered six possible responses from selected topical areas related to co-operation with the school, school penetrating to family, homework and the satisfaction of a child at school. The respondents were asked in the five-grade scale to express the rate of agreement or disagreement with the statements. From Table 6 it is evident that a significant portion of parents perceive the collaboration of school with family and family with school as important, in the vast majority they agree that the school should (in the interest of a child) "penetrate" into families. For 93.3% of respondents the satisfaction of a child is important, and 85% of respondents perceive homework as part of the home preparation of a child for learning. We believe that statements obtained may be affected by the fact that the respondents were parents of children in the first year of primary schools. In this initial stage of education it is important to establish good co-operation with the school, while most children can handle

the curriculum without major problems, which is reflected in the increased motivation and willingness of parents to work with teachers, and respond positively to their various recommendations. It will be interesting to see whether the responses of parents of children from fifth grade will be different.

Table 6. Attitude to school - the importance of selected phenomena (percent)

Field I definitely agree I mostly agree I cannot decide I mostly disagree I definitely disagree

For schools it is important to co-operate with parents 90.0 10.0 0 0 0

For parents it is important to co-operate with school 86.7 11.7 1.7 0 0

The school should seek ways of how to work with the families of children 26.7 48.3 16.7 8.3 0

What is going on in the families of pupils is not a matter for the school 1.7 18.3 11.7 36.7 31.7

Homework is part of child preparation for learning 85.0 11.7 1.7 1.7 0

The child's satisfaction is important for parents 93.3 5.0 1.7 0 0

The last field presented in this pilot study is concerning parents' perspective on the personality of the teacher, to their professional and personal competencies. It was designed as a scale and offered 14 possible answers. The respondents were asked in a five-grade scale to express the importance rate given to the individual statements. The results show (Table 7) that the highest number of parents (88.3%) believe that the teacher's fairness and natural authority are very important (86.7%). Other very important factors, according to parents, is professional competence: when a teacher is able to effectively apply various teaching methods (81.7%), plan and evaluate the progress of each child (76.7%), has the ability to teach a lot (76.7%), organize the classroom to motivate students to learn (75%) and caters to the individual needs and abilities of each pupil. In addition to natural authority, the friendliness of teachers (78.3%) is also very important for parents, and also when a teacher is a model to their pupils (66.7%). From the results it is evident that the demands placed on teachers by parents are considerable from both the professional and a personal perspective. These results show that we the parents demand a teacher to have such personal and professional competencies that will enable them to cope with demands of their profession on a professional level.

Table 7. Demands for teachers (percent)

Field Very Rather Something in- Rather Very

important important between unimportant unimportant

Meet individual student needs and abilities 73.3 23.3 3.3 0 0

Can organize the classroom in order to 75.0 20.0 5.0 0 0 encourage learning

Can create partnerships with parents 38.3 33.3 25 1.7 1.7

Is an expert in the teaching field 68.3 23.3 8.3 0 0

Can effectively apply different teaching methods 81.7 13.3 5.0 0 0

Can plan and evaluate the progress of each child 76.7 20.0 1.7 1.7 0

Collaborates with colleagues to improve 56.7 31.7 11.7 0 0

teaching

Is a model to their pupils in terms of values, attitudes and behaviour 66.7 30.0 3.3 0 0

Has the ability to teach a lot 76.7 21.7 1.7 0 0

Has natural authority 86.7 11.7 1.7 0 0

Has a friendly demeanour 78.3 21.7 0 0 0

Applies an equitable approach 88.3 10.0 1.7 0 0

Has a sense of humour 55.0 38.3 6.7 0 0

Is placid - optimistic 48.3 43.3 8.3 0 0

5. Discussion

The issue of the functioning of primary schools has recently been addressed in various research projects. A complete image of the current Czech school form after the reformation of the education system is provided by an extensive multiple-case study of Czech primary school (Dvorak, Stary, Urbanek, 2010), which was carried out in five different types of Czech primary schools in 2007 - 2009. Interesting results are shown by the research implemented by the Institute for Research and Development of Education at Pedagogical faculty in Charles University in Prague, in co-operation with the sociological agency MEDIAN (Walter et al., 2010). This quantitative research analyzed public opinions and the views of parents on various aspects of school education. Its results show that two thirds of the respondents are satisfied with the state of our education, while the greatest satisfaction is with the state of kindergartens and of younger primary schools. Almost 80% of parents are satisfied with the content and intensity of communication with teachers, and one of the most important roles of the school is the ability to arouse children's interest in learning, which corresponds with our results. The results of the above research shows that the open school is not among the priorities of the Czech public, and that parents do not have the interest to influence a school. Earlier researches (Rabusicova et al., 2004) found that the initiator of cooperation and partnership is a school that seeks to promote its priorities, while parents particularly expect information about the learning outcomes of their children.

We reached similar results in the project called the Family and School - partners or rivals? which we realized in the Institute of primary and pre-primary education in 2011. The research involved 44 parents and 16 teachers from different regions of the Czech Republic. With both groups of respondents a semi-structured interview was conducted and statements obtained were then coded and analyzed. The research showed that parents perceive the school as an educational institution from which they expect to primarily educate their children, while the same number of respondents expects that a child will be happy and at ease at school. For parents the satisfaction of a child is just as important as their education. When asked whether their children are happy at school, the vast majority of respondents replied "yes", and if children do not have problems, parents do not see any obstacles in relation to school. This is related to the fact that they do not feel the need to change the school.

6. Conclusion

The pilot study is part of the specific research conducted at the Institute of primary and pre-primary education in the Pedagogical Faculty of Hradec Kralove, which identifies the needs, attitudes and

expectations of parents in relation to the particular primary schools. The research builds on an already implemented project of Family and School - partners or rivals? which was carried out in an attempt to get an idea of the expectations held by parents and teachers, and if they agree or disagree with each other. Parents significantly influence the educational attainment of children and their particular attitudes and expectations are reflected in the everyday life of the school. It is obvious that effective collaboration promotes learning and also acts to prevent school failure.

The results of this pilot study suggests that parents perceive the school primarily as an educational institution that aims to teach children to learn and provide them with the most knowledge and skills, while they understand the importance of co-operation with the school, but they expect teachers to be professionally skilled. We are aware of the fact that within the pilot study we brought only a limited range of information (due to the number of respondents), and that from the based research we cannot draw generally applicable conclusions, but we believe that some of our partial findings may have (in relation to the results of these studies) a larger effect.

Acknowledgements

This paper was supported by the Specific research No 2108 titled: Parents in relation to primary school - the needs and attitudes.

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