The 9th Conference of the European Research Network about Parents in Education (ERNAPE) was held in Lisbon at the beginning of September 2013. The researchers inspired by the theory and practice of Professor Joyce Epstein - formerly parental involvement, nowdays school partnership – from Chile to Hong Kong gathered to share research data and ideas with each other.
In her opening address Prof. Epstein focused on the issue of equity. The main aim of her research and practice is to create a school environment in as many schools as possible where ALL families are engaged in school activities, at different levels and in different ways for their children. The main message of her keynote speech was: hundreds of studies show that regardless social factors when families are engaged students’ school success is increased. The engagement of parents results in improved attendance and graduation rates. For better partnership you need to scale up leadership, teamwork, written plans, implementation, evaluation of the quality process, adequate funding, networking and collegial support in schools. It is very important that guidance, tools, materials, training and evaluation for it should be simple. The system should have a certain flexibility, but at the same time some things need to be research-based and required. Prof. Epstein used a very clear medical basic rule. If research finds a new cure it is forbidden to withhold it from patients who can benefit from it. Using the same reasoning if it is proven that engaging parents have a direct positive effect on students’ success, it has to be advertised to all stakeholders in education. It is the responsibility of educators to initiate partnership.
It happens very often that teachers and parents only meet when there is a problem. To establish a successful real partnership they need to meet before any problems emerge. In order to reach real partnership it is necessary that it is a meaningful and equal trilateral meeting, involving the students, too. Communication with parents became much easier with the availability of digital tools, but their use should be learnt and regulated together.
It is a general problem all over the world – we have learnt from several presentations during the conference – that techniques and even the importance of parental involvement is not part of teacher training or it doesn’t get enough emphasis. In many cases teachers tend to blame parents for being ignorant, indifferent or even arrogant. However both research and practice proves that all parents can be involved if approached in the right way.
In the working groups we had the opportunity to learn about national level and international research. We have found some interesting results as well as engaging speakers we hope to meet at forthcoming EPA events. The presentations and research papers will be published in the E-journal of ERNAPE. Learn more about it at ernape.net