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  • Mum, Help Me Get an A+

    Learning with mum: A study has found that youngsters whose parents are supportive but who go to bad schools perform better than children whose parents are unsupportive but who attend good schools

    Good parenting is more important than a good school to a child’s academic success, according to a study. Youngsters do best when their parents help them with homework, emphasize the importance of education and attend school events, researchers found. Children with supportive parents – even if they attend poor quality schools – tend to outperform pupils at good schools whose parents take little interest in their education. The findings prompted the researchers to warn that improving social mobility cannot be achieved only by ‘fixing’ the school system. Initiatives were also needed which aimed to enhance parents’ involvement.

    Researchers examined information on 10,585 teenagers drawn from 1,000 randomly selected secondary schools in the US. The study considered their academic performance and the quality of parental involvement in their lives – so-called ‘family social capital’ – as well as the quality of their schools – ‘school social capital’. Parents were considered to be passing on high levels of social capital if they regularly checked homework, talked about school with their children and attended parents’ evenings and other events. These are thought to be ways parents pass on knowledge and values to their children.

    Meanwhile, schools with high social capital ensured the classroom environment was conducive to learning and kept truancy and disruptive behavior to a minimum. They also offered plenty of extra-curricular activities and made regular contact with parents. Teachers at these schools reported high morale. The researchers, from North Carolina State University, found that while good schools did help to raise achievement, the influence of families was stronger. Teenagers with high levels of family capital but low school capital tended to do better in exams than pupils with high school capital but low family capital, according to the study, published in the journal Research and Social Stratification and Mobility.

    Dr Toby Parcel, who led the study, said: ‘While both school and family involvement are important, the role of family involvement is stronger when it comes to academic success.’ Dr Toby Parcel advised that parents should check homework, attend school events and let kids know school is important. She said the findings emphasized the crucial role parents play in children’s education.’ Our study shows that parents need to be aware of how important they are, and invest time in their children – checking homework, attending school events and letting kids know school is important. That’s where the payoff is.’ Dr Parcel said attempts to ‘fix’ schools ignored decades of research highlighting the importance of families. ‘Our findings ... suggest that efforts to increase social capital at school, such as initiatives to reduce class size or attempts to create parent-school programs and ties, would probably have a beneficial effect on students,’ she said. ’However we also find that family social capital has a stronger influence on child achievement than does school social capital.’

    Parents heavily involved in their children’s education are often called ‘helicopter parents’, because they hover around, or ‘tiger mothers’, because they push them to achieve high academic standards. The research suggests the approaches are, at least in part, vindicated.

    The original version of this post is written by Laura Clark and can be found on this link.

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