Imagine how much a child could learn if their parents and their school worked closely together, communicating frequently and supporting the child in consistent ways.
This kind of close collaboration is not yet common around the world. But in a great many communities, educators and parents have begun realizing that a strong bond between schools and families can have a powerful impact on educational outcomes for millions of children.
“Parents are a key stakeholder often overlooked in education."
The Parental Engagement Spotlight Report explores the importance of this parent/school bond and highlights a dozen programs from around the world that are fostering parental engagement in creative ways.
“Parents are a key stakeholder often overlooked in education,” the report says. And yet one unexpected result of the pandemic is a growing connection between parents and schools. And that deeper understanding on both sides has been a huge benefit to young learners.
“In March 2020, parents around the world were suddenly active participants in their children’s learning, engaging across a range of multimedia platforms; from SMS messages and phone calls in Botswana, online meeting platforms in India, to parent education hotlines in Western Pennsylvania,” the report explains.
“Strong and equal partnerships between parents and schools is essential for student success, but it is often not successfully established and maintained in the case of families with low socioeconomic status,”
With this in mind, HundrED began seeking innovations that improve communication between schools and families and engage parents in the daily activities of their children and their learning processes. They also looked for “innovations that offer spaces for parents to discuss and learn from each other, sharing their knowledge and impacting their communities.”
After exploring nearly 200 different parental engagement efforts in 49 countries, the resulting list includes a wide range of approaches -- from educational playgroups and programs celebrating language diversity to community-based parent support groups and a program that promotes healthy child-parent attachment.
One program, called Parent’r’us, offers a unique peer mentoring system that supports and connects parents and teachers.
“Strong and equal partnerships between parents and schools is essential for student success, but it is often not successfully established and maintained in the case of families with low socioeconomic status,” according to the Parent’r’us organizers, based in the Netherlands. “Disadvantaged parents are often not treated as equal partners, or lack the skills and confidence to become that.”
To combat that problem, Parent’R’Us matches parents with peer mentors from a similar socioeconomic background, to build a sense of trust and equality.
“The grass-roots method of Parent’R’Us ensures that parents do not feel like they are being spoken down to, but are empowered and collaborating with their peers to reach a common goal,” the report says. “This train-the-trainer model means this innovation can scale and impact widely.”
“Parents are important allies in children’s education, however, not all families are the same, and different kinds of engagement methods are needed to help every child flourish in life, no matter what happens.”
Each of the innovations highlighted in the report were chosen in part because of that inherent scalability and the ease with which they could be adapted and replicated elsewhere in the world.
This new report from HundrED was developed as part of the global Parents as Allies research initiative, which focuses on how the partnerships between schools and parents around the world are functioning and how innovations popping up in one part of the world can be adapted to support students elsewhere.
Parents as Allies brings together four organizations — the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution, the Teachers Guild x School Retool team at the groundbreaking design firm IDEO, HundrED, and the Pittsburgh-based, family-focused media outlet Kidsburgh.
Through global research and convenings, the various Parents as Allies research teams have spent much of this year asking parents and teachers about their needs and concerns. As promising new strategies crop up, these ideas are synthesized and shared in reports like the HundrED Spotlight, in order to help build stronger school-family and teacher-parent partnerships worldwide.
As part of this work, the Brookings Institution will soon be releasing a research playbook titled “Families and Schools: Working Together to Transform and Improve Systems.” And throughout the Pittsburgh region, Kidsburgh is hosting a series of public events called the Great Learning Conversation, which builds on design sprint work led by IDEO last spring.
“Parents are important allies in children’s education,” says HundrED co-founder and executive director Lasse Leponiemi in the report’s foreword. “However, not all families are the same, and different kinds of engagement methods are needed to help every child flourish in life, no matter what happens.”
In the coming months, the Parents as Allies initiative aims to find and foster as many of those different kinds of engagement methods as possible
Download the Parental Engagement Spotlight Report for free from the HundrED website to discover the 12 programs creating stronger school/family partnerships from around the world.