Institute of Education

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Children Perform Better When Parents Are Involved in School Life

A family’s involvement in a child’s education acts as a source of social mobility, according to a study by Mikhail Goshin and Tatyana Mertsalova, experts at the IOE Centre for Socio-economic Aspects of Schooling. Lower income parents who actively participate in their children’s school life open up more opportunities for their children.

The research is based on the larger HSE study, Monitoring of the Economics of Education. Respondents came from nearly 4,000 families in nine different federal districts and various types of localities.

Many studies have proven that a parent’s income and education levels, i.e., their socioeconomic status, impact their child’s success. Schoolchildren from families with a higher socioeconomic status typically have better academic performance and, as a result, end up going to college. Conversely, children from lower income families have ‘less of a chance that they will get an education at the same level as their wealthier classmates,’ Mertsalova notes. It is less common for such students to continue their education after graduating, and they ultimately become less qualified specialists in their field. A vicious cycle arises whereby inequality is reproduced, Mertsalova adds.

This study has shown, however, that the cycle can be broken and a child can be given a better future. A lot depends on how involved the child’s family is with his or her studies. The more active a parent is, the better a student’s performance will be. This means broader educational opportunity.

A family’s interest in a student’s school life helps the child overcome educational inequality. A high level of parental involvement ‘offsets the difference in success among children from families with different economic statuses,’ the researchers write. A family’s activity level ‘has an indirect impact so that a child’s academic performance and opportunities are no worse’ than that of his or her peers from wealthier families, Mertsalova explains.

The attitude of a family towards school impacts whether a student pursues higher education. The socioeconomic status of parents determines not only opportunities, but motives as well. Among families less involved in academics, 13.5% of wealthy parents said they did not want their children to go to college, while this figure was nearly 50% for lower income parents. At the same time, the percentage of teenagers not planning to continue their education was roughly the same for both lower income and wealthy families who took an interest in academics.

To analyse the link between a child’s grades and family involvement in academics, the researchers identified several levels of parental activity. At the ‘zero’ level – when a family does not care about academics — the child typically receives C’s and D’s.

The first, or basic, level presupposes ‘nurture and communication’ — that is, that the parent is in contact with teachers and pays attention to grades and events from class. In this way, upwards of 90% of families participate in school life. ‘Children whose parents are involved in their education at this level have higher academic performance compared to those whose parents don’t take part in their education,’ the authors note.

Only a few parents demonstrate a high level of involvement, which is categorised by participation in the management of school and educational policy at the local community level. Some 13.1% of parents take part in decision-making regarding the school’s development (in the form of councilmembers, for example). Lastly, 3.4% of families collaborate with the education authorities. They are typically parents with a higher socioeconomic status, many of whom hold PhDs or management positions. In these families, children achieve the highest academic results.

The average level of parental involvement involves parents helping children with homework, as well as volunteering to help organise different events at school. Roughly half of Russian parents are involved with both, the authors note. The academic achievement of schoolchildren from such families is higher than that of their peers from families interested in schooling at only the basic level, the researchers conclude.