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Parent and Family Participation in Early Childhood Education
Parent's role in early childhood education
As children grow and develop, parents will have a significant influence in the process. In addition to simply caring and ensuring that the needs of the child are met, parents are also "teachers" given that children will often learn a lot from their parents as they develop. Therefore, it is only appropriate that teachers involved in early childhood education strive to form a good relationship with parents, and form a positive environment in which children can receive the care and attention they need to develop well. Here, I will discuss the significance of having parents/families become more involved in early childhood education, what teachers have to do to ensure this and current policies regarding this practice.
Parents are often encouraged to get involved in early education of their children because so as to both contribute to their development as well as the development of the nation in general. According to a number of studies, parental involvement has been shown to have a number of benefits, which is why parents are consistently being asked to become actively involved. According to Cairney (1997) and Hannon (1995) the involvement of parents in this is of significant benefits given that it contributes to national development by contributing to the literacy of the child. In addition, their active involvement is beneficial in that it enhances their understanding of the appropriate educational practices at home, which in turn contributes to the development of the child both at home and in school (Gelfer, 1991). It is therefore of great importance that teachers work towards creating a good relationship with parents and other extended members of the family so as to ensure that children are supported on all fronts.
Although the relationship between teachers are parents may be negative at times (Klein and Miller, 2015) there are various approaches through which teachers can work with the parents/families.
According to Michell, Haggerty, Hampton and Pairman (2006) some of the approaches that have been used before and therefore recommended here include:
Having parents, or other members of the families involved contribute to the education programme as "parent helps". Here, teachers can encourage the parents to document children's learning at home, which would help deepen both the parents' and teachers’ understanding of the children and their learning. The significance of this recommendation is that it gets the teachers and parents to collaborate and work together in a manner that gets the parents to observe the child, make a report and with the teachers, find the most ideal way to support the child, build on their weaknesses and enhance their strengths.
Secondly, teachers, and parents are encouraged to discuss their aspirations as well as the philosophy of the centers, which would allow the teachers to develop a unique and engaging way with which they can make connections between the center (where they spend time with the children) and home. This is an important recommendation that allows teachers and parents to remain on the same page throughout the learning process of the child. While children are taken care of and educated in these centers, this is also the case at home in most cases. For this reason, it is essential that teachers and parent discuss their aspirations so as to know what they are all working towards. This is of great importance given that it will also help the teachers to explain, and discuss the learning process with parents/families so that they also get to know what the child is learning at the center and what they are expected to do at home to help in child development (Michell, Haggerty, Hampton and Pairman, 2006).
Thirdly, teachers should consistently include parents in the ongoing assessments, planning as well as curriculum discussions. Here, again, parents are actively involved in the learning process of the child. At home, teachers should encourage families to continue assessing the children so as to have a good idea of how the child is faring with their learning (Michell, Haggerty, Hampton and Pairman, 2006). Moreover, By having parents become more involved in both planning and the curriculum, parents, and other family members will get an opportunity to know exactly what their children are learning and the center programs. This allows parents to also become teachers at home, following up on what is going on at the center and therefore being in a position to collect useful information on how the child is developing.
Through these recommendations, teachers and parents become partners with the same goal of ensuring excellent child development. Moreover, by seeing family members work closely with teachers the children gradually develop a sense of continuity and of being cared for. This ultimately helps develop a trusting and secure environment that supports the learning and development of the child (Whalley & the Pen Green Centre Team, 2001). Here, it is also important to note that the quality of children's experience is greatly influenced by their surrounding ecological systems (community, etc) as well as the Microsystems they find themselves in (composed of cultural and ideological beliefs and values) In such environments, the interrelationships between the systems will have a significant impact on the development of the child. By having this knowledge, teachers would be in a good position to and have a good understanding of the significance of a good "working" relationship with those who are close to the child (parents, family members) in order to create a good learning environment.
In New Zealand, one of the plans that were being implemented with regards to early childhood education was the strategic plan "Pathways to the Future- Nga Huarahi Arataki (Ministry of Education, 2002)". As the implementation neared its end in 2013, it had attracted significant attention internationally because of the potential it held in early childhood education. Among other things, the plan contained policies that promoted collaborative relationships between all concerned parties. One of these policies emphasizes on better collaboration between the early childhood services, parent support and development as well as health and social services (Dalli, 2010. In this case therefore, although teachers have a significant role to play in the development of the children, they are still expected to get parents to be actively involved in such areas as the curriculum and assessments. The strategic plan was also aimed at ensuring that children would participate in quality early childhood education. This would be achieved by not only promoting collaborative efforts, but also ensuring that the teachers were qualified for the practice and that the government got involved not only by funding, but also by establishing regulatory systems that would regulate the services. In addition, there would be greater government involvement particular in the communities where participation in early childhood education was viewed as low.
Here, it is clear that the policies emphasizes on the need for collaboration between teachers and the parents. This being the information age, where technology has significantly advanced, and more children are likely to remain glued to the television or other devices such as video games and smart phones as is the case with most teenagers and even parents. In such environments, it is possible for parents and other family members to forget about such important things as assessing the children and teaching them from time to time given that they are of the opinion that the child receives all the education they need at the centers. It is for these vey reasons that teachers have to ensure that parents remain actively involved in such activities (planning, assessment, and curriculum) so that they can continue where the teachers left off at home. This presents great value in that it creates a community, where the teachers, the child and other members of the family remain actively involved in the learning process of the child (Michell, Haggerty, Hampton and Pairman (2006). Here, children will find themselves in a quality environment that support them and shows care and attention to their learning. Moreover, in this environment, the child also shares in the aspirations of both the teachers and parents, which would in turn influence positive outcomes.
With regards to early childhood education, the quality of care and education that children will receive is greatly dependent on a number of factors. However, one of the most important of these factors is the qualifications of teachers in the centers dedicated to education and caring for the children. Here, qualified educators and caregivers will have a good understanding of what the children need for proper growth and development in their learning process. As such, they also understand the significance of building a string supporting environment around these children, which is composed of the active participation of family members and the teachers themselves. According to a good number of studies, it has been shown that parents as well play a crucial role in the learning process of their children, which is why teachers should continually involve parents in this process. According to Carr et al. (2001) and the Ministry of education in New Zealand (2004) there are particular forms of assessment that can be effective in encouraging not only teachers, but also parents and the children themselves to actively participate in early childhood education communities and thus contribute to the programme. This shows the significance of have such a community composed of families, parents and children for the ultimate success of early childhood education. Therefore, teachers should continually involve parents in all major steps taken to ensure that they remain engaged in the practice for the benefit of the children.