Parent-School Mutual Partnership: A Crucial Layer in Education

July 3, 2021

In a recent live interview with Mr. Luc Pauwels, an internationally experienced educator and a guru in school-parent collaboration, defined, explored, and tackled the different pillars of the infrastructural framework needed for a constructive and healthy school-parent collaboration that is paramount to the development of children.

Pauwels emphasizes the necessity of active school-parent communication to reduce the gap between the education provided by the school and that provided by the family. While schools worldwide are trying to reach the benchmark of school-parent collaboration, Pauwels notices that IB schools, in general, strive for an active involvement of the parents in school planning and implementation. In China, for example, the establishment of hundreds of international programs at Chinese schools has resulted in more parents coming into the schools to communicate, participate, plan, and implement aspects of their children’s curriculum.

Pauwels shares some real-life examples that he has witnessed and has directly participated in, such as increasing enrollment in a previous school that he worked with by 20 percent after effectively encouraging parent involvement in education. He cites that in other countries such as Belgium, the government has set guidelines for healthy school-parent partnerships to ensure schools and parents operate as co-equal partners.

Theoretical concepts behind a healthy school-parent collaboration

Joyce Epstein of the John Hopkins University provides an excellent framework for fostering healthy communication and collaboration between school and parents. Pauwels describes the six pillars of this framework: Parenting, Communicating, Volunteering, Supporting Home Learning, Decision Making, and Community Collaboration.

Pauwels considers Parenting the weakest aspect of school-parent communication and collaboration. He confirms, by asserting his personal experience with many schools in Wuhan and around the world, that Communication is the cornerstone of a successful mutual partnership. Schools must communicate with families about school programs and student progress, and they ought to create two-way communication channels between school and home that are effective and reliable. Pauwels guarantees the success of the Volunteering aspect by diversifying it such as involving parents as an audience to observe classes, to develop activities and programs, and to assist teachers. Volunteer parents need a meeting place and proper coaching to be successful. Learning at home is another essential pillar for collaboration and partnership. Pauwels considers it by far the most challenging aspect of fostering a healthy school-parent partnership since it takes time, its progress is slow, and it needs a long-term collaboration based on trust and respect. Decision-making is crucial too because families must participate actively in school decisions and governance through school councils, improvement teams, committees, and other bodies. Pauwels emphasizes here the different levels and practices of parents’ decision-making in different countries based on the country’s related rules and regulations. Last, but not least, Community Collaboration must be founded on matching community services with school programs, helping communities with their needs, developing a wide set of talents among their students, and ensuring equity of opportunities to students and families to participate in community activities.

How can parents and teachers contribute to online learning?

Pauwels mentions that schools must be well prepared for online learning. He recommends all schools to organize monthly online evening learning events for students and parents instead of homework. This could also be a fun online activity for students and parents. Furthermore, schools must connect teachers and parents at the classroom level with online teaching, making arrangements collaboratively. Parents play a major role in online learning by matching learning at home with learning that takes place in the family, collecting and exchanging information with teachers, analyzing data, and making time and space to discuss problem cases.

When can we say that a parent has crossed a limit?

Pauwels clarifies here that the Do’s and Don’ts must be listed clearly at the beginning of the collaboration process. A moderator should be appointed to avoid parents dominating meetings and activities, and communication channels must be established respectfully. All of this will prevent the occurrence of boundaries being crossed.

How can schools initiate the school-parent mutual partnership?

Pauwels indicates that the source of mutual communication starts by taking care of the students, communicating with parents, learning from each other, involving the parents in school activities and programs, and most importantly, helping the child to progress through communication and collaboration with their parents.

Many schools appoint a senior administrator fully dedicated to dealing with parents and training them to master different strategies help their children overcome different challenges and constraints. Do you think that the existence of a dedicated senior administrator or an external provider to liaise with and train parents is a must and why?

Pauwels considers this a must, as he experienced the need of appointing a dedicated senior administrator. Having this individual saves a lot of time for the other administrators and teachers, which gives them more time to spend on students. 

Today, School-Parent Mutual Partnership is a central pillar of education. Schools alone cannot succeed in the sacred mission of education. If schools are one hand, parents ought to provide the other to clap for the success of all students.

If you missed the talk or would like to rewatch, you can catch the replay here: YouTube or Bilibili.

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