More than anything, the new school curriculum, which is to be rolled out in a couple of weeks in Kenyan schools, offers parents the opportunity to be involved in their children’s education. This is because the basic tenets of the curriculum requires teachers to meet the requirements, interests, and talents of every child, while diagnosing the learner’s needs. The parent is at the centre of learning in school.
Additionally, the fact that day school wings have been started in selected secondary schools across the country as a measure to increase transition rates to secondary school makes the new development a challenging task for Kenyan parents. Having been a high school teacher for some time, and knowing how Kenyan parents work in relation to school and the entire system, it will be important for the government to create a school communication system to aid smooth implementation of the new curriculum. Just like drivers on Kenyan roads who cannot drive safely without being policed, Kenyan parents would need to be 'parented' for smooth implementation of the new curriculum.
Clearly, parents need to be empowered. And to do this, schools across Kenya will need to be more open and sensitive to parental concerns. Schools will have to come up with innovative ways and systems to ensure parental involvement in their children’s learning. A good example is the School Improvement Project (SIP) being implemented in selected primary schools to boost headteachers’ management and accountability systems and the quality of learning and teaching in the pilot institutions. If the project is monitored well and the objectives met, the schools under this programme will enhance parental and community involvement in the running of schools and their affairs.
What this means is that empowered parents will take the initiative to participate in school activities, at home and in the community. All, therefore, will be for the good of the school, our youth, and the country. At the heart of all this is the knowledge that good education starts at home long before a child ever sets foot in a school. Therefore, as a parent, if you do not guide your child in, for example, reading to prepare them to be successful in school, a parent should not be surprised when they are not. There is a reason scientists refer to the first few years of life as the 'formative years'. Parents can only waste them at their and their child’s peril.
The parent is also attached to the teacher’s ability to deliver in a big way. This is because family factors play a role in a teacher’s ability to teach students. Educationists agree that what is going on at home will impact a student’s ability to learn at school. Parents must always work with the school system to ensure that the child learns in school.
From my experience while teaching at Lenana School, some parents will not be seen for the entire school year, no matter what sort of issues arise. Others never seem to go away, hovering over the child and teacher and interfering with the education processes. They release the child but somehow they are still be around. We know that there are ways parents can become involved and support their child’s education at the same time, but teachers don’t always get that level from parents.
Yes, children are more successful at school when parents are involved. Better yet, teachers, too, are positively affected when parents take an interest. That is because involved parents promote positive classroom behaviour among learners, help them to be more organised, enforce discipline, and actualise their effort.
On their part, involving parents boosts teachers' self-perception and job satisfaction, which often leads to high productivity. For this positive cooperation to take root and succeed, our schools should build and maintain an open door policy so that parents can participate in the learning process and help in bridging any differences.
Gone are the days when the teacher is the know-it-all and the parent 'takes' instructions. Parental involvement will complement the teachers’ efforts outside the classroom. Somehow, our schools will need to create and maintain this system, which is, unfortunately, lacking in many public schools.
Additionally, parents and teachers would have to come up with a better communication system that places the learner at the centre of communication because they are the priority. All activities and issues concerning the learner should be communicated to the parent through newsletters and performance records as agreed. Parental input is important, just as is the teacher's.
In this era of fast communication, parents, through the help of the teacher, could create social parent-teacher groups that would, in turn, provide a platform to discuss and promote open communication and understanding between parents and school staff. This way, the parents would also give suggestions and be part of the learning process through class and school programmes, activities, and events.
What all this means is that the new curriculum has placed more responsibility on the parent in the school and learning process. Therefore, partnerships with parents, children, stakeholders from the private sector, and community support will be crucial for its successful and smooth implementation.
Dr Mogambi teaches at the University of [email protected]