Parent engagement in schools refers to school staff working together with parents to support and improve students’ learning, development and health. Schools are responsible for engaging parents in meaningful ways. Parents are committed to actively support their children’s learning and development. A relationship between schools and parents helps to strengthen children’s learning and development at home and in school. Research shows that parent engagement in schools is closely linked to better student behavior, higher academic achievement, and enhanced social skills.
In this KHDA Chatter, we take a look at how two private schools in Dubai – Delhi Private School Dubai (DPS) and Kindergarten Starters (KGS) – engage parents. We consider their approaches and the differences between parent engagement at the primary and secondary school levels. We also consider each school’s observations on how parent engagement supports student learning.
Approaches in Parent Engagement. DPS engages parents within a framework of four pillars: Citizenship Reinforcement, Happiness Celebration, Academic Partnership and Advisory. Under Citizenship Reinforcement, DPS engages parents in school activities such as managing the school’s organic farm and organizing charity projects aimed to inculcate among students the values of peace, tolerance and an abiding commitment to be proactive in making a better world. Through Happiness Celebration initiatives such as inviting parents to assist in school field trips and special events such as bake sales and Children’s Day celebrations, DPS engages parents to inspire hope, resilience, grit and happiness among students. Academic Partnership calls for parents to take part in students’ learning through activities promoting intellectual curiosity such as becoming Reading Partners supporting reading development in the classroom. Under Advisory, parents are considered a valuable “think tank.” DPS engages parents in decision-making processes. For example, parents are integral to the Operational Committee advisory board, which works closely with school management.
KGS engages parents through its Open Doors program. The concept of open doors at KGS emerged from the question: “How can engaging students and parents with real-world situations, through interdisciplinary projects, help students find innovative solutions to solve problems?”
This question stemmed from the school’s observation of its parents’ apprehension toward a new teaching approach implemented a couple of years ago. Parents were generally unsure of how new curriculum developments with interdisciplinary learning of Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Art and Math was going to impact student learning. The initial aim of the Open Doors program was to help parents understand how students learn in the classroom by giving them the opportunity to visit the school, observe a lesson and provide feedback regarding their experience. KGS considered parental concerns and suggestions.
Difference between approaches in primary and secondary school levels. At DPS, parents in the primary school level are frequently invited to school to work alongside their children. This approach is echoed at KGS where parents are invited to be part of the classroom setting. Frequent parental engagement is possible since the primary school curriculum at both schools allows for flexibility. Primary school parents at DPS are also encouraged to engage with their child at home on a number of class projects.
The secondary school curriculum at DPS is structured according to CBSE requirements. For that matter, parents in the secondary school generally support their children at home. Whereas the parental engagement in the primary school is holistic, engagement at the secondary school is more directed, particularly in terms of academics.
Parent Engagement to Support Student Learning. DPS observes that parent engagement in the form of classroom participation allows parents to become aware of the learning style, strengths and weaknesses of their child. This gives them the opportunity to become more responsive to their children’s social, emotional, and intellectual developmental needs. DPS particularly observes the key role of parent engagement for students of determination. At DPS, parents are active in the processes of forming and evaluating individualized development plans for their students of determination.
KGS observes that parent engagement in meaningful ways enables transparency. As parents and teachers work together, KGS sees them becoming equal partners in a students’ development. KGS observes its Open Doors program has a way to eliminate “blame games” and to promote parents, together with teachers, in sharing the accountability for student outcomes.
Both DPS and KGS show that parent engagement needs to follow a framework enabling meaningful experiences that can lead to partnership. The schools also show that the framework need to be based on principles of engagement that may support meaningfulness.
As a parent, teacher or
school principal, tell us how you appreciate ways that allow for a partnership
between parents and schools. We’d love to hear from you!
 Alexander, Asha (2018). Don’t want to stagnate? Open doors! Published in Kaleej Times on April 20, 2018.