September 16, 2016 8 min to read

Parental Influence on School Governance

Category : Governance

Author: Mr M L Babbar
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It is an established fact that meaningful and regular dialogue between parents and school teachers is essential for the growth of children. It is important for the ‘home’ and the ‘school’ to work in sync for this ensures that the child gets the best of quality education. Such interactive sessions provide opportunities for parents to share their views about their child’s aptitudes and interests at home which, otherwise, might go unnoticed at school. Same is true of schools sharing the innate and untapped talents of children with parents. This two- way sharing of observations helps in fully comprehending the needs and aspirations of children impelling both the parents and the school to excogitate systems of learning suited to the child’s intrinsic inventiveness.

The Congenial Climate
Each school differs in allocating time for such interactive sessions. Most schools provide platforms for interactions in the form of Parent-Teacher meetings (PTA/PTM) /Open House days when parents visit the school primarily to collect progress report cards of their wards. There is hardly any time to discuss the child’s overall progress, not necessarily in academics and activities but also how they are shaping up as individuals. Such meetings, as has been observed, do not serve much purpose. Parents are not keen to visit school merely as a formality for collecting Progress Report Cards with marks/grades mentioned in respective columns.

There are other schools which encourage parents to visit schools and invite them for open and frank discussions on how their children are performing and how they could help the school for further improvement. Such enlightened schools, led by dynamic and liberalist leaders, involve parents in school matters so that they can collaborate on the development of the child. This open-ended approach ensures parents’ co-operation and they voluntarily get roped in to help the school organise various functions and also participate in other assignments as found fit by the school, depending on the talents parents have. This gives parents and their children a true feeling of belongingness resulting in the creation of a very happy and congenial climate for learning. It is important to create a cohesive climate for the parent, the teacher and the learners so that they all understand and not blame each other. Schools that are able to achieve this are considered as pace-setters in school education and their functioning styles are widely appreciated.

There are some acute impediments, both circumstantial and mental, which are considered to be responsible for low participation of parents in school meetings. In rural areas it is difficult for parents—mostly, daily wage earners— to take leaves for attending school meetings. Moreover, they are not educated enough to understand the importance of such interactions. They suffer from inferiority complex; they believe that the teachers know better and are the best judges for their children. There are some others who feel they are not respected at school and that their inputs are taken disdainfully. This scenario does not exist only in villages; it is also found in cities and towns. The poor, the lower middle class and the uneducated are treated the same way. With such feelings of inferiority parents tend to refrain from involving with school programmes resulting in their loss of confidence to help their children with their home work. Good schools organise some educational talks by well-known experts to help parents understand the utility of strong and healthy communication with the school.

There is another reason for parents to keep themselves away from parent-teacher meetings. They do not like teachers pointing out negative qualities of their children in public. “Why don’t teachers talk about the good qualities my son has?” said a parent angrily after the PTM was over. It is obvious that such school teachers need to do some self reflection and develop positivity in their approach to interact with parents and their children. This would increase the school’s reputation as well as their own reputation as teachers and in the process they would connect with the learners more effectively. Let the teachers not forget that the society expects contribution in terms of nation building and that they are the conscience keepers of society.

There are innumerable advantages of a healthy working relationship between the school and the parents. The school, of course, has to take the initiative. The meetings should be well planned and the dates and the programmes to be discussed must be shared with the parents in advance. In fact, it should be inbuilt in the curriculum of the school. A welcoming atmosphere for parents should permeate the school environment which in turn should help the children. A school alone cannot succeed in its mission of imparting quality education and therefore, the school and the parents must work as a team with mutual understanding and equal respect for each other’s view points. It is, therefore, necessary that the schools should enlarge it to class-wise interaction when teachers along with the Principal are present. The very presence of the Principal generates an aura of credibility among the parents. This would ensure that the school truly believes in meaningful connect with the parents and their children. Experience has proved that this approach works wonders for the benefit of children’s growth as balanced persons, good human beings, extroverts, international citizens with unshakable roots in their motherland.

We live in an information rich society. Information Technology has brought the entire world together. The flow of information is so fast that no nation can remain untouched by what happens in other parts of the globe. There is abundance of mediums of information available apart from print and electronic. Consequently, parents’ awareness about schools and education they impart is fast increasing. The parents are no longer shy to attend school meetings and actively participate in them. The New Age parents make it a point to attend practically all the school functions—annual Foundation Day Function and Sports Athletic meets, in addition to the House Functions and other programmes organised by the school. This is a very positive step forward.

Over the past few years, parents have become very active and have been demanding more role and authority in the management of schools. They want their say in curriculum framework, conduct of examinations, evaluation process, and attendance records of students and even of teachers and in various other educational programmes and administrative matters of the school. To cater to this requirement of the parents, Governments at the centre and the states have stipulated the provision of parents on the school management committees in addition to the existence of Government nominees and teachers’ elected representatives. Every state has their own Education Act which lays down rules for the management and governance of the schools. In Delhi “The Delhi School Education Act & Rules, 1973” provides for the elected representative of parents on School Managing Committee. Central Board of Secondary Education and State Boards also make it incumbent on the managing committees to have parents’ representative(s) on School Management Committees in addition to nominating their own representatives. All the members whether nominated or elected have equal rights in decision making and governance of the school.

The Flip Side
That parents have been given new rights over their children’s schooling is undoubtedly a welcome step. However, it is also necessary to strike a note of caution and self regulation lest the parents should infringe upon the competence of qualified and experienced teaching fraternity, selected with care and according to rules framed by the Affiliating Boards and the respective State Governments. It is said that “more is merrier” but in the new situation “more can be messy;” and the possibility of some members exercising political clout to pressurise the Principal and teachers to decide an issue or issues they think is right cannot be ruled out. In matters of admissions, promotions, purchases etc., the Principal’s authority is likely to be eroded and s/he being reduced to a mere rubber stamp could be inimical to education.

Very recently, to give Community far greater say in how a Government school should run the Director of Education NCT of Delhi issued a circular considerably enhancing the powers of the School Management Committees. The composition of the Management Committee—called SMC—comprises (i) Head of School—Chairperson, (ii) Parent —Vice-Chairperson, (iii) 11 elected parent members,(iv) Teacher member,(v) Social worker, (vi)Elected representative of Local authority, and(vii) MLA nominees. The Community Members can now ask the Principal to show-cause teachers. The Vice-chairperson can call a meeting and any member can ask for any records in writing. During monthly meetings all records—including financial records, bills, and attendance registers of teachers and students have to be placed before the committee; members can visit school and address assembly etc. Although the composition of the School Management Committees has been mandated by the Right to Education Act, 2009 which in itself is a “remarkable achievement” despite its shortcomings, it would be inadvisable to comment more.

This above-said composition of School Managing Committee is not applicable to Private Unaided Recognised Schools. These schools are governed by State Education Boards. In matters of admissions, selection of teachers and other staff and their conditions of service etc., are well spelled out. The Private Unaided Recognised Schools are in great demand mainly because these are headed generally by knowledgeable Principals aided by qualified, trained and committed teachers. They enjoy, in comparative terms only, some amount of autonomy in the effective functioning of the schools. These schools provide congenial climate for learning and the teachers are abreast with latest pedagogical practices. Moreover, the parents of such schools, broadly speaking, work in unison with the teachers and have great respect for them. Differences of opinion are respected and issues are resolved amicably in the interest of school learners. The Principal and the teachers know the nuances of educational niceties which unfortunately do not exist in state run schools where there is constant attempt by the vested interests to run down the school visionaries—the teachers and the Principal. That the parents should have say in school matters is always welcome and respected. Their involvement with school is considered a positive contribution but their over-much interference and intervention in school’s basic policy matters and in day to day functioning is likely to destroy the very fabric of quality education.

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