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Families’ lack of understanding of school processes or value of education

One commonly cited factor in explaining the gap in the engagement levels of minority and non-minority parents with schools is the lack of knowledge among parents on how local educational processes work. For example, studies among immigrant families demonstrate that their diverging educational experiences along with language barriers mean that they are left with a lack of understanding of educational policies, practices, and expectations. Some studies of minority parents found that the lack of formal education among parents left them feeling unaware of what or how to ask questions of their children’s parents (see Delgado-Gaitin (1991) analysing Mexican parents in California, USA). A study of Croatian Roma parents meanwhile noted that Roma parents felt a high-sense of duty to engage in their children’s learning but did not feel competent enough to engage in school-decision making or class representative roles suggesting a lack of self-confidence, which the authors suggest stems from “an acute awareness that they lacked the necessary ability or knowledge to take on leadership roles” (Pahić et. al. 2011, p.288). Other studies suggest barriers to higher parental engagement among Roma in their children’s school can be due to fears of losing their culture (Zachos 2019), which can arise from a lack of awareness of what goes on in their children’s school. 


Institutional support networks (NGOs, non-formal educational institutions and alike) outside of formal education may act as bridge between the school and parents, especially in cases when parents belong to a vulnerable group. The role of non-formal educational institutions has been extensively discussed in relation to improving academic success among vulnerable students, but there is still a lack of understanding how such institutions foster parental involvement and better understanding of school processes. Some examples point out the positive impact for NGOs on parental involvement: for example in Turkey, non-governmental organizations, such as the Mother-Child Education Foundation emerged to facilitate parental involvement in schools. The philosophy of this NGO is that “parents are the primary educators of children––it is not possible to achieve better educational outcomes for children without working with their parents and establishing learning environments in the homes” (Tekin 2011, p.3). Interestingly, while they initially targeted mothers, with time fathers were also involved.


Designed to prevent school absenteeism and reduce school failure and early school dropout of the most vulnerable students, the Dear Houseprogramme (Nyírteleki Kedvesház Esélyteremtő Program) in Nyírtelek was designed based on the premise that relations between the school and families of their students were vital to academic success and better understanding of school processes. As part of the program, one- or two-hour sessions are hosted for parents in which they have a chance to see what goes on at the school during a day and see and experience what their children are taught and how they behave first-hand. By opening up to parents, the school enjoyed higher rates of parental engagement, with more interest taken by the parents in their children’s overall academic progress. Moreover, it helped to build trust with the parents, and led to decreases in absenteeism and improvements in children’s attitude to learning (Torgyik 2004).