Scholarly article on topic 'A Study on the Primary School Teachers’ View upon the Essential Factors Determining the (Non)Involvement of the Family in the Education of Primary School Students in Romania'

A Study on the Primary School Teachers’ View upon the Essential Factors Determining the (Non)Involvement of the Family in the Education of Primary School Students in Romania Academic research paper on "Economics and business"

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{"parent involvement" / "parent involvement barriers" / "categories of barriers to parent involvement" / "formative action for parents"}

Abstract of research paper on Economics and business, author of scientific article — Venera-Mihaela Cojocariu, Gabriel Mareş

Abstract The issue of identifying and hierarchizing the categories of factors which determine the degree of the family's involvement in the education of students is extremely topical. All the more so as we are referring to primary school students, challenged by their first authentic school experience at an early age. The aim of our study is to draw the radiography of the categories of factors which determine the level of involvement of the family in the education of the primary school student, in Romania. The method we have used is the questionnaire-based inquiry. We intend to present the results of the investigation upon a sample of teachers from primary education, in the urban and rural environments. Our results materialize in the identification, analysis and systematization of the factors which determine the level of involvement of the family in the education of the primary school student, in Romania. We shall further design lines of formative action involving parents, which may enhance the degree of the family's involvement in the education of the primary school student and render this process more efficient.

Academic research paper on topic "A Study on the Primary School Teachers’ View upon the Essential Factors Determining the (Non)Involvement of the Family in the Education of Primary School Students in Romania"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 142 (2014) 653 - 659

CIEA 2014

A Study on the Primary School Teachers' View upon the Essential Factors determining the (Non)Involvement of the Family in the Education of Primary School Students in Romania

Venera-Mihaela Cojocariua*, Gabriel Maresab

a„Vasile Alecsandri" University of Bacau, Mara§e§ti no. 157, Bacau, 600115, Romania b„Alexandru loan Cuza" University ofIa§i, 11 Carol I Blvd., Ia§i, 700554, Romania

Abstract

The issue of identifying and hierarchizing the categories of factors which determine the degree of the family's involvement in the education of students is extremely topical. All the more so as we are referring to primary school students, challenged by their first authentic school experience at an early age. The aim of our study is to draw the radiography of the categories of factors which determine the level of involvement of the family in the education of the primary school student, in Romania. The method we have used is the questionnaire-based inquiry. We intend to present the results of the investigation upon a sample of teachers from primary education, in the urban and rural environments. Our results materialize in the identification, analysis and systematization of the factors which determine the level of involvement of the family in the education of the primary school student, in Romania. We shall further design lines of formative action involving parents, which may enhance the degree of the family's involvement in the education of the primary school student and render this process more efficient.

© 2014 ElsevierLtd. This isan openaccess article under the CC BY-NC-ND license

(http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of the Alexandru loan Cuza University.

Keywords: parent involvement, parent involvement barriers, categories of barriers to parent involvement, formative action for parents

1. On some fundamental theoretical approaches

The issue of involving parents in school education is highly topical. Most studies on this topic highlight the positive impact of involving parents in their children's punctual and/or global evolution and in optimizing their school results (Adamski et al., 2013; Burke, 2013; Doucet, 2011; Green et al., 2007; Hornby & Lafaele, 2011; Ivan & Cristei, 2011; Jarmuz-Smith, 2011; Kindervater, 2010; Scott et al., 2000; Smith et al., 2008; §ad & Gürbüztürk, 2013; Tam & Chan, 2011; Plevyak, 2003; Winnail et al., 2000; Xanthacou et al., 2013).

* Corresponding author. Venera-Mihaela Cojocariu, Tel.: +4-074-706-6462 E-mail address: venera_1962@yahoo.com

1877-0428 © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license

(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of the Alexandru loan Cuza University.

doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.07.681

Most of the relevant benefits of involving parents in formal education are the intellectual and moral ones, those which lead to the progress of students and to improving the relations between these and their parents (Xanthacou et al., 2013). We shall mention the most relevant ones: facilitating the improvement of school results (Green et al., 2007) and academic success (Ivan & Cristei, 2011; Adamski et al., 2013; Blanch et al., 2013); building study skills and a proper attitude towards school (Tam & Chan, 2011); improving school attendance, motivation and reducing dropout rate (Adamski et al., 2013); facilitating school success, improving the relationships parents-pupils, parents-teachers, the school climate, the children's attitude and mental health, enhancing the parents' confidence, satisfaction and interest in self-education (Hornby & Lafaele, 2011; §ad & Gurbuzturk, 2013). Basically, parents' involvement, as a key element of educational quality (Blanch et al., 2013), may make the difference between success and failure in school education (Plevyak, 2003). At the same time, a significant part of the studies reveal a decrease in the parents' involvement in the pupils' formal education as these advance in the educational system (Winnail et al., 2000), a situation observable also in the Romanian educational system.

Parents' involvement (PI) may be defined as the set of categories of activities that ensure their participation to their children's training and education process, at home and at school (Ivan & Cristei, 2011). The current approach to the PI concept implies the extension of this activity from the complex of actions conducted by parents-children at home, for preparing the school process, to all the activities conducted by parents, including educational activities conducted by teachers, community at school. Studies by Epstein support the systematization of the 6 types of actions through which PI may be achieved, as well as the essence of each category: 1. Parenting: parents provide supportive home environments; 2. Communication: school and home exchange information about child; 3. Volunteering: parents are recruited to help at schools; 4. Learning at home: Schools provide parents with guidance and learning materials to involve them in their children's education; 5. Decision-making: Parents are represented and involved in school decisions; 6. Collaborating with the community: Schools identify community resources and services to improve student learning (Epstein & Salinas, 2004:13). This approach provides a complex perspective upon the possibilities of building a real school-family partnership, with a major positive impact upon the development of children and ensuring equality of chances in their subsequent evolution.

Xanthacou et al. (2013) systematize the most common types of PI: supervising school and extra-school behaviour, offering help in doing homework, communicating with the school. According to the authors, control of extra-school behaviour and frequent communication with the school are the most effective activities.

Barriers in PI are related to the set of objective and/or subjective factors which diminish, restrict, condition, block the parents' involvement in the formative act. Their diversity and complexity may be briefly illustrated as follows: the parents' sensation of inferiority, feeling unexploited by the school as equal partners (Burke, 2013); the low economic level of families, mono-parental families, belonging to a minority group, linguistic and cultural barriers (Adamski et al., 2013); the reticence of teachers regarding the parents' educational skills, the doubts of parents regarding their competences in helping children to do their homework (Blanch et al., 2013); the parents' poor economic status, their unfavourable attitudes and expectations regarding school, school regulations, certain personality traits of teachers (Xanthacou et al., 2013); temporal constraints, lack of confidence in school, lack of communication between parents and school, the parents' lack of knowledge regarding what children learn at school, their inability to understand how they could get involved (Hornby & Lafaele, 2011); lack of time, the parents' low level of education, negative school experiences, lack of trust in school, the prejudice that education is the full responsibility of the school, poverty, racism (Smith et al., 2008).

Moreover, there is also the socio-educational prejudice, according to which teachers have competences in PI. In reality, there is usually no teacher training focused on PI. This will generate inefficiency in approaching and training parents in building and achieving the school-family partnership (Epstein & Salinas, 2004).

2. The research methodology

2.1. The aim of the study is to identify the primary school teachers' opinion regarding the factors leading to the (non)involvement of the parents of primary school pupils in their education.

2.2. Hypothesis: If the model proposed and experimented by Hornby and Lafaele (2011) is functional also for the parents of primary school pupils from the Romanian educational system, then, on its basis, we may draw an analysis of the most important factors which determine their (non)involvement in their children's education.

2.3. The research objectives and their correlation with the questionnaire items: O1: identification and hierarchization of the main categories of factors which determine the (non)involvement of the parents of primary school pupils in their education (items 1-11); O2: knowledge of the primary-school teachers' opinion regarding the need for training programmes dedicated to working with/educating parents and their involvement in such programmes (items 12-13); O3: formulating suggestions for improving the involvement of the parents of primary school pupils in their education.

2.4. Sample: 106 primary school teachers, with the following structure: work experience in education: 0-10 years -35%; 10-20 years - 33%; 20-30 years - 16%; over 30 years - 16%. The distribution of the sample according to the teaching environment has the following configuration: teaching in the urban environment - 73%, teaching in the rural environment - 27% of the subjects. According to the training level, 49% of the teachers from the research sample have average studies, and 51% of them have high studies.

2.5. The data collection tool and test application: The research relied on a questionnaire with 13 items, mixed as open and closed opinion questions. This was elaborated in agreement with the model proposed by Hornby and Lafaele (2011), being pre-tested in December 2013 and applied in January-February 2014. The questionnaire was designed in agreement with the objectives of this research, aiming at highlighting the factors which contribute to PI, establishing the hierarchy of these factors based on the relevance attributed to them by the respondents.

3. Presentation, analysis and interpretation of results

The questionnaire data was analysed, processed and interpreted in agreement with the proposed objectives. In order to achieve O1 (identification and hierarchization of the main categories of factors determining the (non)involvement of parents of primary school pupils in their education - items 1-11), we have analysed, interpreted and systematized the answers into categories of factors. Thus, we have obtained the hierarchy of the factors regarded by primary school educators as relevant for the (non)involvement of parents in their children's education. This hierarchy has the following structure: range I - efficient communication between educators and parents; range II -(multiple) economic aspects; range III - the beliefs and attitudes of parents regarding school and education; range IV - the child's age (see Figure 1).

Range I 75%

Range III 66%

Fig. 1. The primary school teachers' opinion regarding the hierarchy of the categories of factors which determine PI

1. In relation to school, PI depends on how teachers and parents build communication, how parents receive and perceive the demand of getting involved in the children's training process. This is appreciated by 20% of the respondents as highly relevant and by 55% as very relevant. Therefore, 75% of those questioned believe that the way in which teachers relate to parents may significantly influence PI. The results presented above reveal, besides pure findings, aspects related to identifying a real need of the teachers from the Romanian educational system, namely, the need for "training" in assertive communication with parents. The invitation of involving parents in school life reflects the way in which teachers establish the relationship with the pupil's family. Its positioning on the first place reflects, in fact, awareness of the teachers' responsibility in relation to the family.

2. For 72% of the teachers involved in the study, the economic element represents one of the factors affecting PI. Our results are convergent with those of Xanthacou et al., (2013), thus: 15% of the teachers who answered the questionnaire believe that the level of parents' involvement in their children's education depends, to a very high extent, on economic factors, and 57% regard the economic element as highly relevant. Therefore, we may argue that the majority of the teachers involved in our study correlate "economic comfort" with the parents' level of participation to their children's formal education. The higher the economic status of parents, the higher their interest in their children's academic acquisitions. According to our study, poorer parents are more interested in the material element of the teaching process, the classroom facilities, as well as the other pupil facilities.

3. The parents' beliefs regarding their children's education is placed on the third position among the factors regarded by teachers as determining PI by 66% of the respondents, this factor being considered important to a very high extent by 31% of the respondents, 35% considering it to be very important. We may say that in the view of our group of subjects, there is a very close correlation between the parents' perception upon the formal educational "system" and their desire/absence of desire to get actively involved in their children's education.

4. The child's age is regarded as the fourth factor in the hierarchy of factors relevant for PI, with 52% of the choices. For 19% of the subjects, the child's age is a very important factor contributing to building and maintaining a close relationship between parents and the educational system. For 33% of the teachers involved in our research, the factor of the child's age is considered important to a very high extent.

The scores obtained for these items and the hierarchization of the factors affecting PI reflect the values and position of primary school teachers regarding the family, but, at the same time, support the identification of a series of expectations of teachers regarding parents, as well as their own process of professional training.

In order to achieve O2 (knowledge of the primary-school teachers' opinion regarding the need for training programmes dedicated to working with/educating parents and their involvement in such programmes (items 12-13), we have analysed the data obtained for the two items. Based on these, we have crystallized a hierarchy of the opinions of primary school teachers regarding the need to build PI skills (see Fig. 2).

Fig. 2. The hierarchy of the opinions of primary school teachers regarding the need for training programmes to build PI skills

The results obtained reveal the fact that for our sample of teachers, the need to cover programmes for building and developing competences and skills in working with parents is a real one. Based on our experience of almost 30 years in the educational system, we may extrapolate and appreciate that this is a stringent need at the level of the entire contemporary Romanian school. The teachers involved in our study appreciate these programmes as necessary to a relevant percent of 83% (range I). There is a visible direct correlation between their work experience and their opinion on this issue. Teachers with a longer work experience regard the participation in programmes approaching the issue of working with parents as important. On the one hand, the need for this type of programmes springs from the fact that more than half of the investigated teachers, 56% of the respondents have claimed to never have attended training programmes in the field of educating parents (range II). On the other hand, the need to train teachers with a view to building skills in interacting with parents has been generated by the particular social mutations of the post-communist era, by the change in how the family relates to the contemporary school. Educators feel the need for a functional regulation of the relationship with parents and of norms meant to clarify the latter's responsibilities towards school. In this respect, 46% of the subjects of our research said that the involvement of parents in their children's education should be regulated through coherent educational policies (range III), adapted to the demands of the Romanian society. Another need we have identified at the subjects of our research is related to the complementarity of the parents' and educators' attitudes regarding their children's education. The educators often signal these relevant discrepancies regarding the child's involvement in the work task, when it is to be completed in class, compared to involvement in similar tasks completed at home. The attitudinal discrepancy between parent and teachers invalidates, in front of the child, both parties, the latter eventually doubting their own competence in educating the child.

The parent/family should become a real and realistic partner in the equation of authentic appropriate training, adapted to the child's context. The family should assume this role and turn into the catalyst for the adaptation process of the person to the changes from the global, social, economic and educational systems. Flexibility in the attitude of the family members towards the child's process of becoming represents an essential ingredient in the child's harmonious training, adjusted to the socio-economic demands of the time. Based on the ideas noted above, we may say that a traditional, conservative attitude achieves an anachronic character compared to the current society's evolution and needs.

In order to reach O3 (formulating suggestions for improving the involvement of the parents of primary school pupils in their education), we have systematized the collected data and we shall present a synthesis of them from this perspective: exploiting the parents' motivation of having children with studies above their level, allotting, by the parents, of a greater amount of time to perform activities connected to school (insufficient time often leads to the children's superficial training), counselling parents regarding the child's school activity, formulating a triple perspective action plan - of the educator, the child and the parent.

4. Conclusions

Until recently, it was thought that being a parent is a gift/given which naturally comes along with the child's birth and which everybody in this situation may successfully fructify. Gradually, due to the challenges of the contemporary world, we have become aware of the fact that being a parent becomes, significantly, a role which is learned by resorting to the background of empirical, traditional knowledge, as well as to the science/sciences of education. Initially, awareness comes from the world of the school, which lacks, for the most part, the parents' relevant contribution to the effort of achieving successful education. In this respect, the data we have obtained for O3 highlight the urgent need for training in parenting of primary school teachers. This may be met even through an optional or elective discipline of Parents' Education, during the initial training for the didactic career from the bachelor study programme The Pedagogy of Primary and Preschool Education. Gradually, parents become also aware of the positive effects of PI, but, for now, in Romania only a small number of these have enough levers to compatibilize the management of their own material existence with the PI action.

In relation to the finalities of the study, we believe that the research has achieved its goal, allowing for the identification and hierarchization of a number of 4 factors which influence, according to the primary school teachers, the degree of (non)involvement of parents in their children's education (1. teacher - parents communication; 2. economic aspects; 3. the parents' beliefs; 4. the child's age).

Regarding the study hypothesis, the perspective for analyzing its validation is interesting. In order to gradate the

interpretation, we should mention the fact that within the model proposed by Hornby&Lafaele (2011), the barriers identified in relation to PI were, in their order of relevance: 1. parent and family factors; 2. child factors; 3. parent -teacher factors; 4. societal factors. Thus, comparing our results with the model we refer to, we find that in its general structure, the model identifies with the 4 factors we have found, which means that the hypothesis is confirmed and the model is functional also for the parents of primary-school pupils from the Romanian educational system. On the other hand, although our results reveal all the barriers of PI (according to Hornby&Lafaele, 2011), the order of the factors identified by us as decisive for PI is different. In other words, the model is valid, but in a form particularized to our school system, the parents of our pupils and the opinion of our teachers. From this perspective, the barriers which occur in the (non)involvement of the parents from our educational system depend, in their order of relevance, on: 1. The teacher-parent relationship (range III in the theoretical model), 2. the economic background (range IV in the model), 3. the parents' beliefs (range I in the model) and, finally, factors related to pupils (age) (range II in the model) (see Table 1, where 1 represents the hierarchy of the model's elements and 2 represents the hierarchy of the data we have obtained).

Whereas in Hornby and Lafaele's model (2011) the first two positions are occupied by parent and child (internal factors, related to the essence of family), in our results the first two positions are occupied by the teacher-parent relationship and the economic factor (external factors, situated outside the family, which determine its functioning). In a certain sense, the data re-confirm the educational and social reality from our country, the insufficient training of parents to be parents and make education, as well as of teachers to manage the relationship with the family. Regarding the economic factor, this is unfortunately decisive not only for the financial support of education, but also for the (non)involvement of parents in the proper action.

The 4 categories of factors related to PI become, at the same time, directions of action for improving it: 1. optimizing the communication process (identifying more direct and efficient ways, training activities for teachers to manage the relationship with parents); 2. ensuring a proper financing of education in terms of educational policy, including additional financial support for children from vulnerable family environments (school should become a real support for families, not a burden of additional costs, strengthening their motivation to support their children's education, as well as the involvement of parents themselves in this process); 3. enhancing the parents' level of education, formative actions for adults and for spending free time with their children; 4. knowledge of the age particularities and the children's needs at any age.

In our opinion, based on the results of this research, we may propose the exploitation of several suggestions given by the teachers, as well as building possible solutions based on their real needs. Basically, all the suggestions are correlated with accentuating the involvement and responsibilisation of teachers and parents in approaching and managing PI.

Given the results of our research, we may argue that educating parents, like a component of adult education, should become an element of the academic curriculum of training for the teaching career. As a component of continuous training (although there is also the possibility of intervening in the initial training programme!), universities may design programmes for empowering teachers with competences characteristic of relating with the family. As shown by our data, the way in which parents are involved in their children's education correlates with the educators' abilities of relating with the family. From this perspective, school itself should design adult education programmes which may support parents, so that these may identify their role and position in their children's education and build an efficient set of correct skills in relating with these and with the teachers.

Thus, we may suggest the organization of constant education programmes to empower teachers in approaching adults, the manner of relating to the children's parents being no strong point for many teachers, but rather a frequent source of disruptions and even conflicts. It is necessary to clarify the areas of parent involvement, the place and role which the legal frame may give to the parent, so as to avoid confusions and mistakes. In this respect, we may opt for

Table 1. Comparative presentation of barriers in PI

I 1. parent and family factors

2.teacher-parents communication III 1. parent - teacher factors 2. the parents' beliefs

II 1. child factors

2. economic aspects IV 1. societal factors 2. the child's age

transforming the study contracts into tools of pragmatic work and levers for making all the parties involved in the contract responsible.

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