Family and community must motivate pupils to do well at
school, writes Andrea Nagel.

The Big Read: It's back to school for thousands of pupils
today and educational institutions across the country are gearing up
to start the academic year.

With a drop of almost two percentage points in the pass rate last
year compared to 2008, the onus is on teachers and principals to come
up with progressive plans to motivate scholars.

But, say many prominent educators, parents can also play a big
role in ensuring that their children pass their exams.

Dr Anthony Lelliott, senior lecturer and head of
division of maths and science education at Wits, says that parent
involvement in their children's education is absolutely vital.

"Unfortunately, there is not nearly enough support from
parents in their children's education, particularly in lower-income
households,"he said.

Prof Jonathan Jansen, rector and vice-chancellor of the
Universityof the Free State, agrees and adds that parental
involvement inchildren's studies is crucial.

He says that, to help our scholars outside of the classroom, we
need to move beyond the notion of the nuclear family.

"Being a member of a nuclear family in which both parents are
present and active participants in their children's lives is a
privilege available to very few children. We need to appeal to the
extended family and the community to get involved too," he said.

Jansen admits that the department of education is facing an uphill
battle to get help for scholars from the home front because of dire
economic factors. He believes schools will have to take on a greater
load, especially with disadvantaged children.

But there are many ways in which guardians can help children, he

"Merely taking an interest in what a child is studying is a
good start.

"Engaging your children in a discussion about their school
work shows interest and care.

"Engaging with teachers and principals indicates to children
that their caregivers are concerned about their education and
encourages them to work harder," said Jansen.

"Parental support strengthens the base of the delivery of
quality education," said Kathy Callaghan, of the Governors'
Alliance, an association of public school governing bodies.

Without the co-operation of parents it is often difficult to
motivate scholars to go to school. Callaghan said parents should, at
least, make sure their children go to school every day.

"Ideally, all parents should be involved in the
[parent-teacher association] and the school governing body,"
Callaghan said.

She insisted that parents must be involved at home too.

"If they aren't up to scratch with the curriculum
requirements they should at least make sure that their children are
doing their work."

Education specialist Dr Graham Bloch believes that
children are motivated to work at their studies by parents who take an
interest in their school life.

"Taking an interest in a child's daily school
activities, as well as instilling values and good discipline in the
child, can make all the difference to their educational career,"
said Bloch.

Naturally, strong family bonds can only benefit a child, he said.

Michael Gardiner, senior researcher in the schools division of the
Centre for Education Policy Development, has extensively researched
schooling in rural areas.

He suggests that schools should be made answerable to the
community and not only to the department of education.

"In many rural homes, it is unrealistic to expect
parents to be involved in their children's schooling. Many homes are
without books and reading is not a culture," Gardiner said.

He admits that life is tough for many of these children. Many
young ones have onerous domestic responsibilities.

"We need to draw on the resources that exist in these areas
and make education the responsibility of the entire community."


Source: Times LIVE –