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Contextual factors and economic stressors

Limited family resource and logistical constraints, manifested in, for example, shortage of time and money, can negatively impact family contact with schools. Issues such as difficulties accessing schools due to their distance and lack of convenient or affordable transportation options are common issues, particularly in Central and Eastern European countries. Related to the question of finance, many Roma students also drop out early to seek paid employment to support their family financially. Poverty also prevents parents from acquiring the materials needed for their children’s education and can inhibit children’s learning in the home due to poor surroundings such as limited space, lighting, and heating (Pahic, Vidovic and Ridicki, 2011). 


It is important to stress that it is not the socio-economic status per se that acts as a barrier. In fact, studies showed that the level of engagement among parents does not strictly vary simply based on income level (Armor et al.). For example, A US-based study found that some schools with lower levels of engagement could be found in stable neighbourhoods, with the converse true of residential areas which demonstrated signs of overcrowded living conditions. What was key to levels of engagement is the leadership demonstrated by the school

Another study based on parental engagement in the Philippines came to a similar conclusion, noting that socioeconomic and educational background had little impact on parental involvement (Caño et. al). Based on an assessment of two student groups – one high performing, one low performing, each of which was represented by parents of varying income and education levels – parents differed on the following points: parents of high performing students were more likely to have a homework strategy in place, attend meetings and community activities, had reward systems in place for their children, and felt more empowered in terms of decision-making.  

To remedy low-parental involvement, the authors of the study suggest “providing parents with information on the types of parental involvement; giving parents a voice on the views on parent involvement; and encouraging partnerships with schools through the implementation of extension program,” with the support of an aid to support in parenting education (Caño et. al. p.148-149). Some schools developed parent intervention programs designed to increase engagement through the provision of services such as flexible scheduling and childcare on school premises during meetings and events, accessible locations, and transportation for the same, and learning kits on reading, science, and math, accompanied by training on how to use them. (Boethel 2003; Henderson and Mapp 2002). 


One Hungarian school with predominantly Roma students began holding parental meetings in an institution (an after-school program, a Tanoda) located in the village where the Roma community lived. Teachers noticed that attendance and involvement of parents increased greatly. Rather than parents attempting to travel to the town where the school was located, with little or no transportation options, the school organized a handful of teachers to travel to the village and hold a meeting with all parents. This change in practice led not only to greater parental involvement, but also growing trust between the school and parents.