Information covered in the presentation included; the information source which was the (1) Progress International Reading Literacy Studies (PIRLS), (2) the home-school interaction, (3) comparing various countries to inform government on how their students were doing, (4)does any of this information matter and finally (5) the thoughts of the various EU members attending the presentation.
PIRLS is a study done on primary school children; usually fourth class aged 9 to 11 years. This information is compiled every five years by parents in 47 countries who complete a questionnaire which is then sealed and returned. The survey consists of data from over 325,000 pupils and over 250,000 parents. What was different about the PIRLS study? Questionnaires were used instead of talking to parents associations. Why? Parents are very important and governments want to get the best outputs from their education systems. When Eemer was asked the breakdown on how the schools were picked, she explained that a list of all Irish primary schools were sent to a company in Canada and the company picked a portion of large schools, small schools, urban and rural schools. This ensured that countries were not picking their best schools for the survey.
Some of the questions asked of the principal, teachers and staff were:
· How often do you inform parents on issues related to the child’s general progress and academic progress?
· How often do you update parents and issues related to the school and the overall academic/rules/news?
· How often do you ask parents to volunteer or join committees?
· How often do you organise parents courses or provide extra material for parents?
· How supportive or involved are your parents?
Some of the questions asked of parents were:
· Do you feel involved in the school and informed?
· Does the school care about your child and provide a safe environment?
· Does the school do a good job helping your child with reading, maths and science?
· What about homework?
· What resources do you have at home?
· What about literacy and numeracy activities?
The different replies from all parties are well worth comparing.
Comparing the various statistics from the various countries would take a long time as the survey was done over three years. It is easier for me to point you towards the website which will let you view your own countries statistics in your own time on http://timss.bc.edu/
Does any of these test scores matter?
· Home resources matter
· Literacy and numeracy matters
· Home-school links matter as does a safe school
· The scores matter as we can compare our country to other countries in the European Union. But what is most important: children do best when schools regularly talk to parents and where the parents feel the school is safe and doing a good job.
We divided into discussion groups after the presentation. Our group discussed a question asked of the principals: How do you rate parental involvement in school activities? The word “involvement”; some schools have parent activities like crafts classes and computer classes. We wondered if working with the school on how well your child is developing in the classroom would be the “involvement” the questionnaire was looking for. Activities like parent teacher meetings when a parent may only meet with a teacher for a few minutes to discuss the child. Members from the various countries also discussed (1) schools and parents need to develop trust between them and (2) families who don’t attend the school for parent teacher meetings etc. are usually the parents the teaching staff would most like to speak to and support in the education of the child.
Workshop and report delivered by Eemer Eivers from the Educational Research Centre