Fostering Parent Leadership through Parenting Education Programs in Schools


A. Introduction

In the field of education, the role of parents is pivotal. Their leadership has a significant influence on students' learning process and their learning outcomes. Notably, there arises an issue when parents do not possess a high educational background and consequently, they acquire this parenting knowledge through experiential learning. While this skill can evolve over time without depending on the necessity of particular education, but possessing this pre-established skill would augment a better possibility for their children's academic achievements. Moreover, in their cross-cultural study, Vlasov and Hujala (2017) found some similarities between the USA, Russian, and Finnish contexts. The finding underscores the significance of parents' engagement in Early Childhood Education (ECE).


This essay will center its attention on parent leadership through the participation of parents within the school program. Schools serve as a context where formal education is dispensed. Besides, how a family functions is equivalent to an organizational structure works in which every member possesses a distinguished responsibility based on their predetermined agreements. This milieu where collaborative work manifest as an illustration either the responsibilities are clearly defined or required to be specified. Hence, this essay will explore the benefits of strong parent leadership, the barriers and challenges parents face, and several implementable school-based strategies. The author also provides real-world examples through previous case studies on some school programs. It is aimed to enrich best practices parents can adopt in diverse educational settings.


B. Parent Leadership and Students Achievement

Students' academic performance is not contingent solely upon what and how the schools operate, rather the family plays a pivotal determinant for the student achievements at schools. The key factor in this case is that parents’ responsibility is not only limited to provide school materials for the children, but also to actively involve with their academic journey. It manifests diversely, commencing with helping them with learning difficulties and extending to addressing the significance of academic integrity. For instance, a student may struggle with their math homework, and in this case, the parents should guide them on how to do it correctly, while at the same time emphasizing the importance of academic integrity so that the student understands that their parents only play a role as a guide for them.


Although it may seem facile, in its practicality, there are numerous factors that hinder parents from assisting the children in their learning process. One predominantly noticed issue is parental divorce, which can affect students’ achievement in school. Notably, students react in different manners to this situation; one student may perceive it as a stressful case, while another may be found to be an achiever and more positive despite this situation (Widyastuti, 2017). Looking at the parents' side, parents’ educational background may have a great impact on how they cope with the issues and it increases the possibility for parents to entrust their children’s education to the school rather than themselves. Besides, the parents may also grapple with other issues such as financial situations, relationships, and neglecting the need of parenting education. 


C. Parenting Education in Shaping Parent Leadership

Holistically, parenting education is not novel in the prevailing circumstances, but it remains fundamental for children's development. In fact, the scope of this specialization transcends beyond the focused-children instruction, but it integrates parents' capacity on their leadership role in the family. Okafor et al. (2014) found that parenting education can enhance parenting capacity and leadership skills in the Smart and Secure Children (SSC) program. Furthermore, this program offered several activities, such as co-training sessions, a conversational learning approach, and applying the knowledge of child development in daily routines, which parents could then share with their peers. Similarly, another study discovered that parenting education classes in the Early Childhood Education (ECE) program in the US developed parents' ability in child nurturing including the practices (Sabol et al., 2018). This initiative did not only provide courses, but also other varied training sessions, such as home visiting case management and family workshops. Ultimately, it can be seen that parenting education affects children's development, not only emphasizing on academic achievement, but also in other areas, including parent-child relationships, nutrition, and physical activity's impact on child development.


Widely, it implies that becoming lifelong learners is indispensable for parents. It is imperative to establish firmed decisions in advance on how they plan to educate their children before entering married life. Equally, expecting children to become lifelong learners is also the main goal of education. Thus, parents' education also plays a significant role in child upbringing, and in this case, their learning needs are noteworthy. Nowadays, technology surrounds the children in their day-to-day life with an abundance of opportunities, but simultaneously, there also emerges some risks over their online activities. In line with this, Tosun and Mihci (2023) conducted a study on designing a digital parenting educational project for parents with preschool children in Turkey, Edirne. The results of this study found that the digital parenting attitude scores of participants were fairly low, and most participants were unwilling to join this project. This study highlighted the need for the program to point not only on digital skills, but also on conventional parenting skills and sustainability. This case gives a clear insight while technology emerges as a challenge for some parents, it remains essential to acquire these skills, and this is where lifelong learning mindset is required.


D. Strong Parent Leadership in Schools

School principals, teachers, and other stakeholders undeniably represents a central role in the educational domain. However, the key actors are not only from one Community of Practice (CoP), but establishing partnerships with another CoP is even more crucial. In its essence, a CoP refers to a collective individual who shares several common interests and purposes. The objectives are to experience and interact frequently in order to improve their learning (Wenger, 1999). While a family has their own objectives and the school defines their own, some common purposes might serve the idea of strengthening a relationship. Establishing a partnership between these two CoPs reinforces students' academic outcomes by involving both communities in several decision-making processes.


Furthermore, educational institutions should enable parents to engage in some relevant educational administrative domains, such as curriculum changes, finances, and formulation of school policies (Halimah et al., 2020). It implies that parents need to be knowledgeable about several educational administrative tasks in the school to emphasize that the school stakeholders are not the only ones who are specialized and responsible for school development. Building partnerships with other CoPs, in this case, each student's family, is crucial. On the other hand, every student's family should also allow the schools to engage in several family decision-making processes, as it also highly impacts the students' academic performance at school. Therefore, it is not only the school's responsibility to guide student success in their academic journey, but involving strong parent leadership in schools is highly important to achieve the shared vision between both family and school.


E. Parents’ Obstacles in Home-School Partnership

Complex problems may arise for parents in their marriage life, extending from issues that can be communicated with the school to more private challenges that are difficult to communicate to the school. It affects students' learning processes in the classroom, as several students may not be willing to communicate with any parties due to personal obstacles that could significantly influence their private lives. In extreme scenarios, it is possible to affect students' mental health and lead to mental disorders. For instance, parents who have divorced end up neglecting the child, and resulting in low academic performance at school.


F. Strategies for Parents’ Involvement in School

Financial issue has become a major factor for parents lacking of time for their children. This condition results in inadequacy of quality time with children. Financial problems may also cause other marriage problems such as abandonment, predetermined family commitments, and power inequality (Noronha, 2016). In this context, financial resources are central to daily survival in the family.


The enactment of governmental regulation is a course of action. Although policymakers’ engagement can become a challenge, this particular case requires critical attention as it impacts the development of a country in the long run. One case study was conducted regarding non-cash subsidies, Bantuan Pangan Non-Tunai (BPNT) distribution in Indonesian context which found that involving ‘e-warung’ as the agent should be considerable as there is an increase in terms of price (Rupiarsieh & Musta’ana, 2023). Therefore, it is suggested that receiving government assistance from the school can become an option by incorporating parenting education program as its requirement. Moreover, this approach aims to equip parents with parenting skills and reward them not only in a form of emotional support, but also with tangible benefits.


Another approach is qualifying parents as experts in this field by providing credentials of their achievements, such as certificates and unique licenses. As reported in a study by Stolz et al. (2010), it is crucial to note that expertise is not solely reliant on credentials, core competencies and continuing professional development are equally significant. Furthermore, the credibility of their professionalism in this field allows the parents to become an inspiring model, and they can be paid more for demonstrating their expertise in this field. Ultimately, this system aims to encourage every parent to develop their parenting skills, regardless of their educational background, stressing the significance of a lifelong learning mindset, and highlighting that it is never too late for parents to pursue better education in their role.


G. Facilitating Parent Leadership Program in Schools

Integrating parenting education into the national curriculum is required, where the educational institution provides educational opportunities not only for students but also for their parents. The government becomes a central key actor to involve in this regard (Stolz et al., 2010). Parents should be familiar with the school environment and how it operates. The main purpose is to provide a basic understanding of where and how their children navigates their learning process.


Sim et al. (2021) argued that involving parents in the parenting education program at school becomes a challenge due to each family possessing its parental autonomy with different values and beliefs. However, conceptually families and schools are two different CoPs and highlighting several shared common goals between the family and school can becomes one considerable approach (Wenger, 1999). Thus, the intentionality of the program will be well defined.


The next purpose of this program is to establish the relationship between students and their parents. Several concrete activities that can be integrated are cooking, feeding children, combing their hair, putting on makeup for them, and engaging in other small activities. These activities aim to allow parents and students reflect on their relationship during students’ childhood. In Indonesia, there has been parenting initiatives in schools aiming to form strong parent leadership.


For instance, at the Senior High School level, SMA Negeri 1 Pulung Ponorogo carried out a parenting education program where the educational institution invited parents and their children to engage in several activities such as applying makeup to children, combing students' hair by their parents, hugging, and other various activities (Suaradotcom, 2023). A similar project was also implemented at the Junior High School level, SMP Negeri 1 Sidoarjo. In this program, students hugged their parents, and parents fed the children. Moreover, the main goal these activities is to bond their relationship stronger because their children gradually become more independent and, ultimately, become a parent one day (Choliq, 2022).


Another implementable approach is bonding a strong relationship between parents and school stakeholders. In the USA, the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) becomes a prominent community where parents build a strong partnership with schools. This association aims to gather parents, teachers, and school administrators to engage in several collaborative activities for the school development and particularly, students’ academic achievement. Furthermore, volunteering, fundraising, and other initiatives are several activities to enhance their leadership and organizational skills (Wangeci et al., 2018). Eventually, parents' involvement in the PTA provides the room for discussion to raise their voices in regards with their children's education, maintaining open communication, and acquiring an advanced comprehension of their children's academic growth, difficulties, and any forms of academic supports in the family setting.


H. Case Studies on Parent Leadership Initiatives

Wenger (1999) introduced the concept of CoP. He further explained that CoP is defined as individuals who own a common preference and determine several mutual goals by engaging in the so-called experiential learning and interacting frequently. There are four elements of CoP, namely the community, the domain, the practice, and the intentionality. This framework is the tool to analyze the provided three case studies on family and school partnerships in parenting education.


  • The Community

One case study was conducted by Vélez (2016) within the immigrant parents’ community context, ALIANZA. Another case study conducted by Douglass et al. (2019) is aiming to explore the parent leadership program called Ready for K. The third case study was studied by Susnara et al. (2021) aiming to evaluate the Pre-Kindergarten Parent Leadership Academy (Pre-KPLA) program. These three cases imply that establishing a partnership with the school or creating a parent initiative community outside the school forms a new CoP. Furthermore, it suggests that the school is a significant CoP, bridging new learning opportunities with another CoP, namely student parents.


  • The Domain

In the first case study, the shared competence among the immigrant parents was their voice to speak out against injustice. The members utilized words like "oppression", "hegemonia", and "patriarcado". The competence shared among the members in the second case study was parenting skills. Several parents were given the chance to become the parent leader as they were assumed to possess more experience in parenting. In the last case study, the shared competence was child support to achieve their academic success in which the school provides a room for discussion among parents and teachers for school development. Significantly, this result suggests that establishing this community will enhance parents' leadership skills and also maintain communication among student parents, providing the possibility to strengthen their relationship.


  • The Practice

The first activities in ALIANZA were workshops and network building to expand their political purpose and knowledge. Meanwhile, in the Ready for K program, the activities were in the form of playgroups and literacy activities for children. These activities provided opportunities for social interaction and learning for both children and parents. In the Pre-KPLA, the activities were information sessions on varied topics on parenting skills to help student academic achievement. This analysis holds significance for emphasizing the need for curriculum development to ensure the CoPs continuous improvement.


  • The Intentionality

The purpose of ALIANZA is enhance parent leadership within the context of Latinx immigrant parents in local school reform. Their purpose is to address the conditions affecting Latinx students and their families and make social change in the educational institution and a wider context. Secondly, Ready for K is to ensure children academic success by mobilizing parent leadership as a key approach. In the same way, this program involves the families particularly those who were from low-resource and immigrant families. Moreover, this program is also intended to equip parents with skills and knowledge and encourage supportive relationships in the community. The next purpose of Pre-KPLA program is to improve parents' leadership and self-efficacy, as indicated by the pretest and posttest results in the study. Although it has been previously explained that each family owns its values and principles. However, in a broader societal context, these results contribute to solving various social issues and it also implies that each society possesses its different challenges that can be coped with this student’s parent movements.


I. Conclusion

In summary, students' academic achievement is not solely the responsibility of an educational institution. It also includes family and school that are more closely attached to the students. It underscores the significance of establishing a partnership between the family and the school to support the learning process. As emphasized earlier, marital life is a fundamental context where parents must be knowledgeable of how to grow children properly, given parents involvement with larger communities. Building this learning community can be grounded in the shared common goals among student parents and schools. The three case studies were analyzed to provide explanations on specific curriculum development, the involvement of all education stakeholders, and the diverse goals of individual parental initiatives based on contextual issues.


Ultimately, the writer recommends significant government involvement in this parenting education initiative. While it may be perceived that the government is indirectly connected to this matter, taking concrete action by incorporating parenting education into school curricula is worth considering.


References


Choliq, A. F. (2022). “Super parenting day”. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pc1cQd1C4v4&t=48s


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Suaradotcom. (2023). Gelar parenting day, SMA Negeri 1 pulung ponorogo Sukses Bikin Warganet Haru #shorts. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/shorts/ZCGXXSbt8lg


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