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Month: March 2018

Providing education for European diasporas – a joint challenge for EU and its Member States

ETTW (Europeans Throughout The World: https://euromonde.eu/) organised a conference hosted by the European Committee of the Regions with the support of M. Borboly, rapporteur for ‘Modernising school and higher education’ as well as the ‘Youth Strategy’. The draft conclusions of the conference, very relevant for parents, especially of European origin all over the world. You can read the draft conclusions if you read on.

The purpose of the conference was:
1. raising the awareness in European Institutions of the importance of education for expatriates and their children,
2. discussing key issues which are considered as a priority
3. and improving the cooperation between the different parties through mutual inspiration.

(more…)

Discrimination by family type is illegal

Parents Call for the Hungarian Government to Celebrate Family Diversity at the ‘World Congress of Families’

PRESS RELEASE

In May every year the world celebrates the International Family Equality Day (7 May), International Day of Families (12 May) and the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (17 May), just a few days apart. This is symbolic for associations representing families and parents, a good opportunity for highlighting family diversity.

We live in a Europe where family diversity is a present and visible reality with the traditional, nuclear family becoming less typical. More and more children are brought up in single parent families, by same sex parents, in mosaic families or by grandparents while parents are working in another country. Child rights activists, parents among them, keep advocating for all children who live without their own families to be fostered by families rather than living in institutional care. Parents’ associations all over Europe are working for empowering all parents and guardians, regardless their gender, legal or other status to become the best possible parents for their children.

European experiences of advocacy and empowerment for more than 30 years also inspire parents on other continents. As the UNCRC[1] is in force in all countries of the world except the USA, these ideas and the methodology to empower parents are attractive and relevant for them, thus European traditions were asked to be disseminated by the International Parents’ Network worldwide. In UNCRC countries discrimination in the case of different types of families is not acceptable.

Realising that Hungary’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán has accepted the invitation of the so-called ‘World Congress of Families’, and to let this event happen in a palace of rights, the Parliament of Hungary some questions have arisen. Being familiar with previous such events it does not come as a surprise that organisations representing European parents and families haven’t been invited to the congress. Still, we find it important to express our hope they will make sure this event will be a European one and promote human rights. Thus, we are asking the Government of Hungary how will they contribute to this event to ensure the equal voice and rights of all families, especially the ones that are not considered ‘natural families’ by the organising American civil society organisations.  After the recent vote in the European Parliament accusing Hungary for violating European values, parents and families hope the Hungarian government will show its being European and endorse human.

The International Parents Network was established as a sister organisation of EPA on 1 May 2016 with the ambition to establish a global forum and global lobby group for parents and on issues for parents. Our aim is to start an online discussion, a sharing of knowledge, relevant research and experiences, as well as trying to trigger further research and lobby together for policy change.

The network covers the following topics:

  • supporting parents to become the best educators of their children
  • post-PISA: increasing parental involvement in formal education for thinking and acting together for education suitable for 21st century children
  • fighting illiteracy, promoting reading
  • equal opportunities for girls and women, education of girls and mothers
  • supporting parents in becoming the main advocates of the rights of the child
  • the right to mother tongue and mother culture, even for migrants
  • digital literacy and living in the digital age
  • empowerment for active citizenship and participation
  • fighting xenophobia, hate speech, exclusion, supporting inclusion for a peaceful future

Contact: InternationalParentsNetwork [at] gmail.com

 

[1] The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) guarantee every child that their rights will be respected and ensured without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child’s or his or her parent’s or legal guardian’s race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status. All loving families bringing up children are to be celebrated these days, regardless the gender, age or legal status of the parents or guardians in them.

The World Celebrates Parents as Educators Today – International Day of Families 2017

The International Day of Families is held on 15 May every year. This year the United Nations has decided to focus on parents as the primary educators of their children. The message of the year does not only acknowledge parents as educators and emphasise the crucial role parents play in the education of their children, but also calls the attention of policy makers to the importance of empowering parents as well as offering them conditions for balancing work and family life. The European Parents’ Association has been advocating exactly for this for more than 30 years and this was also why we fostered the establishment of the International Parents Network, a global network of people – parents and non-parents alike – who wish to act for parents and with parents to ensure parents’ rights for the best interest of the child. Parent activist all over the world warmly welcome the official message of the UN highlighting the “vital role of parents in safeguarding good quality education starting with early childhood and extending throughout their children’s and grandchildren’s lifespan”.

Parents as primary educators mean two subsequent and interlinked things. Parents are the first educators of their children, and thus should be able to offer them a good start in life. A good start in life is crucial for well-being, and is also crucial not only for physical, but also for social, emotional and cognitive development in later ages. A good start is best provided by parents in the framework of the home and the family – in this the UN message echoes the recent early childhood policy paper of the European Parents’ Association. Part of this good start is the education and care provided by parents. There is also solid research evidence on parents having the largest impact on the learning outcomes of their children as well as their attitude towards learning – this is the other element of being a primary educator. It is also scientifically proven that taking ownership of their own learning is probably the only way for children to become apt lifelong learners. Thus, it is clear from research that those drafting the UNCRC were right in their approach of putting all responsibilities to parents as well as recognising children as full-fledged rights holders with special needs to ensure their rights.

The primary demand of parents’ associations has been for decades that parents must be given freedom to make decisions for their children, governments must provide adequately for empowering the parents for these decisions, and that their decisions should not be restricted by any financial constraints or legislative measures. It is important that governments and the EU understand diversity and adapt systems to that. It needs high level commitment to provisions and also the systematic application of the principle of subsidiarity. It should also be a principle to give space for the voice of children in a balanced way to ensure parents’ rights at the same time.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) has been ratified by all member states of the European Union, and all countries of the world except the USA. It clearly regulates the rights, duties and responsibilities of parents with regards to the education of their children, and also gives the legal basis for child participation. The ‘best interest of the child’ should be the guiding principle when regulating, organising or carrying out anything related to children from child care and education to the empowerment of parents and teacher training.

To support parents in their decision making for their children and in their job as primary educators, governments and the European Union should support the sharing of information and knowledge on good parenting, offer financial provisions for parents’ training, especially peer training, rather than training provided by others. It should start during pregnancy, when parental training should be as wide-spread as medical preparatory classes. It is important to ensure training and information relevant to the age of children to get the most important messages reach parents.

It is also crucial for government to understand that the well-being of children is strongly linked to the well-being of parents, and balancing work and family life is crucial for this. Policies and measures that are aiming at reconciling work and family life should be at the heart of government and international policies. Parents’ access to work is an important part of the solution of getting children out of poverty and social exclusion, but jobs alone are not enough. It is also very important to have a rights-based approach to reconciliation as a whole and measures taken allowing real free choice.

It is crucial to invest in training, employment schemes and parenting support programmes that can raise not only parents’ qualifications and employability but also help build their parenting skills, their confidence and overall well-being and improve children’s outcomes. Support for families should be approached in such a way that it recognises children as social actors outside of the family. Children have rights on their own and they cannot always be identified with those of their parents. However, all support is to be provided for parents enabling them to carry out their rights, duties and responsibilities in supporting their children in exercising their rights.

Rights base for parental involvement in formal education

The UNCRC very clearly gives all responsibility for the upbringing of children to the parents – or guardians if there are no parents. It means that as long as the court does not deprive parents of their right to custody, all rights and duties related to this, including the education of their children is with the parents and the parents only. Institutions, like schools, are only supporting parents in this task. This support is also an obligation for states to provide the necessary support to parents, partly, but not solely by setting up institutions like schools or offering financial support to families.

This has many implications and here I list only a few of them:

  • Regardless of what national legislation says about it, it is the parents’ decision if and when they send their children to school, to participate at formal education
  • If they decide to do so, their duties and responsibilities do not end with choosing a school and do not stop at the school door
  • Parents have the right to know all aspects of school life and thus either opt out of school if they don’t like what they get or, in an ideal case, to have the institutional framework for changing those elements from curriculum and teachers to the arrangement of the school day/year
  • It is necessary to set up communication channels and representative bodies for the parents to be able to participate in decision making on group and class level as well as on school level
  • It is beneficial if there is a bottom up representative of parents on national level that ensures that the parents’ voice is heard on legislative levels and also acts as a child rights watchdog
  • It is a must to empower and train parents for all these duties
  • Schools and professional educators – hand-in-hand with other professionals working with families from the birth of the child – have a role in this training and empowerment process
  • Parents are to be acknowledged as the primary educators of their children by professionals, and thus treated as respected peers, even if with a slightly different role, by teachers and other professionals

Background:

The European Parents’ Association (EPA) gathers the parents’ associations in Europe which together represent more than 150 million parents. EPA works in partnership both to represent and give to parents a powerful voice in the development of education policies and decisions at European level. In the field of education, EPA aims to promote the active participation of parents and the recognition of their central place as the primary responsible of the education of their children.

The main objectives of EPA are:

  • to promote and advocate for the active involvement of parents as primary educators at all stages of the education of their children,
  • to support parents’ associations and individual parents for stakeholder involvement in different European countries by offering opportunities for training, cooperation and exchanging information,
  • to support the highest possible quality of education for all children in Europe especially by active involvement in EU-level policy development and assessment
  • to disseminate relevant European information among its members

Contact: Eszter Salamon, President president [at] euparents.eu

The International Parents Network was established as a sister organisation of EPA on 1 May 2016 with the ambition to establish a global forum and global lobby group for parents and on issues for parents. Our aim is to start an online discussion, a sharing of knowledge, relevant research and experiences, as well as trying to trigger further research and lobby together for policy change.

The network covers the following topics:

  • supporting parents to become the best educators of their children
  • post-PISA: increasing parental involvement in formal education for thinking and acting together for education suitable for 21st century children
  • fighting illiteracy, promoting reading
  • equal opportunities for girls and women, education of girls and mothers
  • supporting parents in becoming the main advocates of the rights of the child
  • the right to mother tongue and mother culture, even for migrants
  • digital literacy and living in the digital age
  • empowerment for active citizenship and participation
  • fighting xenophobia, hate speech, exclusion, supporting inclusion for a peaceful future

Contact: InternationalParentsNetwork [at] gmail.com

Declaration of Zaragoza 2008 for Education of the World Congress of Parents’ Associations of Pupils

  1. Parents have the right to educate their children according to their principles and moral, philosophical, religious or pedagogical convictions and, therefore, to choose the children’s school and manner of education. No other body has the legitimacy to usurp this right or to impose a moral and ideological indoctrination.
  2. All persons are entitled to receive quality education that enables them to attain personal autonomy through their own efforts and to have access to decent work that should benefit his or her family and society.
  3. All families have a moral duty of solidarity with the children of the most disadvantaged families to enable them to have immediate access to universal primary education. To this end we feel that families should make a commitment to cooperating whether individually or through their associations, to require their respective governments to strive for the necessary international collaboration to realise as soon as possible this universal right which will help to eradicate poverty and child labour.
  4. Education must pursue happiness, justice, good, truth and tolerance and has to be built on shared values such as peace, solidarity, social responsibility, effort, commitment, dialogue and transcendence. No citizen can remain detached or indifferent to poverty or ignorance suffered by others to whom we have a duty of universal solidarity.
  5. Educational pluralism is a fundamental value inherent in education and represents the diversity of options that corresponds with a free and democratic society where all individuals may differ in ideology, race, sex or religion but are equal in dignity and rights. This pluralism is ensured through the right of schools to provide their own educational ideals.
  6. There must be an active and continuous cooperation and participation of families in their children’s educational process, as well as respect for and support of teachers, to enhance the individual student’s effort to achieve educational excellence.
  7. Schools and education authorities must act under the principles of objective assessment, transparency and accountability, which allow citizens to know the level and progression of each school, in order to make the right choice and to correct any deficiencies or lack of quality if these occur.
  8. All families with school-age children must commit to a greater participation and involvement in the educational process through their parents’ associations, which must have sufficient resources provided by the government to carry out their work defending the rights of parents and supporting their training with appropriate competence and professionalism.
  9. No democratic government can discriminate against families by imposing an obligation that their children study in a state school, a school sustained by public funds, or private owned school. Nor can governments compel students to attend a single sex, or a mixed school, nor impose either a secular education, or one based upon on religious values, if this is not in accordance with the wishes of parents.
  10. We believe that physical education or sports, languages and new technologies are core values of a proper education. They have to be taught in all schools, in addition to the intellectual matters.
  11. In a globalized world, students must learn to live together, respecting the diversity and plurality of cultures, environmental sustainability and the ideas and beliefs of others without disregarding their own ideas and beliefs, striving actively for the integration of the weaker or needier.
  12. We affirm all of that is stated for in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights regarding education.

The Impact of School, Family, and Community Connections on Student Achievement

In a report based on research done in connection with the experiences on implementing Joyce Epstein‘s Partnership Schools method, published in 2002, the positive effect of parental involvement is clearly shown. Moreover, it also shows that there are effective ways to involve all parents, regardless their socio-economic status or income situation.

The evidence is consistent, positive, and convincing: families have a major influence on their children’s achievement in school and through life. This fourth edition of Evidence confirms that the research continues to grow and build an ever-strengthening case. When schools, families, and community groups work together to support learning, children tend to do better in school, stay in school longer, and like school more.

How are the many ways that families are engaged in their children’s education related to achievement? Many studies found that students with involved parents, no matter what their income or background, were more likely to
• earn higher grades and test scores, and enroll in higher-level programs.
• be promoted, pass their classes, and earn credits.
• attend school regularly.
• have better social skills, show improved behavior, and adapt well to school.
• graduate and go on to postsecondary education.

Several studies found that families of all income and education levels, and from all ethnic and cultural groups, are engaged in supporting their children’s learning at home. White, middle-class families, however, tend to be more involved at school. Supporting more involvement at school from all parents may be an important strategy for addressing
the achievement gap.

Do programs and special efforts to engage families make a difference?

Yes, several studies found that they do. For example, teacher outreach to parents was related to strong and consistent gains in student performance in both reading and math. The effective outreach practices included meeting face to face, sending materials home, and keeping in touch about progress. Workshops for parents on helping their children at home were linked to higher reading and math scores. Schools with highly
rated partnership programs made greater gains on state tests than schools with overrated
programs.

How do higher performing schools engage families and community?

Schools that succeed in engaging families from very diverse backgrounds share three key practices. They
• focus on building trusting collaborative relationships among teachers, families, and
community members.
• recognize, respect, and address families’ needs, as well as class and cultural difference.
• embrace a philosophy of partnership where power and responsibility are shared.

What is the impact of parent and community organizing on improving schools?

This type of engagement is based outside schools and led by parents and community members, and it is growing nationwide. These efforts are aimed at schools that are low performing. Strategies of community organizing are different from traditional
parent involvement and are openly focused on building low-income families’ power and political skills to hold schools accountable for results.
A new group of studies found that community organizing contributed to these changes in schools:
• Upgraded school facilities.
• Improved school leadership and staffing.
• Higher-quality learning programs for students.
• New resources and programs to improve teaching and curriculum.
• New funding for after-school programs and family supports.

Summing up
When parents talk to their children about school, expect them to do well, help them plan for college, and make sure that out-of-school activities are constructive, their children do better in school. When schools engage families in ways that are linked to improving learning, students make greater gains. When schools build partnerships with families that respond to their concerns and honor their contributions, they are successful in sustaining connections that are aimed at improving student achievement. And when families and communities organize to hold poorly performing schools accountable, studies suggest that school districts make positive changes in policy, practice, and resources.

How can we put these findings into action?
• Recognize that all parents—regardless of income, education, or cultural background—
are involved in their children’s learning and want their children to do well.
• Design programs that will support families to guide their children’s learning, from
preschool through high school.
• Develop the capacity of school staff to work with families.
• Link efforts to engage families, whether based at school or in the community, to
student learning.
• Build families’ social and political connections.
• Focus efforts to engage families and community members on developing trusting
and respectful relationships.
• Embrace a philosophy of partnership and be willing to share power with families. Make sure that parents, school staff, and community members understand that the
responsibility for children’s educational development is a collaborative enterprise.
• Build strong connections between schools and community organizations.
• Include families in all strategies to reduce the achievement gap among white,
middle-class students and low-income students and students of color.

Download the full report here.

The Impact of Parental Involvement, Parental Support and Family Education on Pupil Achievements and Adjustment

Charles Desforges‘ Literature Review entitled The Impact of Parental Involvement, Parental Support and Family Education on Pupil Achievements and Adjustment, published in 2003 is still an important resource for those trying to show policy makers and professional educators the importance of parental involvement and the need to support parents for successful involvement.

The report says:

“The most important finding … is that parental involvement in the form of ‘at-home good parenting’ has a significant positive effect on children’s achievement and adjustment even after all other factors shaping attainment have been taken out of the equation. In the primary age range the impact caused by different levels of parental involvement is much bigger than differences
associated with variations in the quality of schools. The scale of the
impact is evident across all social classes and all ethnic groups.”

Key finding of the review (quoted from the executive summary):

  • Parental involvement takes many forms including good parenting in the home, including the provision of a secure and stable environment, intellectual stimulation, parent-child discussion, good models of constructive social and educational values and high aspirations relating to personal fulfilment and good citizenship; contact with schools to share information; participation in school events; participation in the work of the school; and participation in school governance.
  • The extent and form of parental involvement is strongly influenced by family social class, maternal level of education, material deprivation, maternal psycho-social health and single parent status and, to a lesser degree, by family ethnicity.
  • The extent of parental involvement diminishes as the child gets older and is strongly influenced at all ages by the child characteristically taking a very active mediating role.
  • Parental involvement is strongly positively influenced by the child’s level of attainment: the higher the level of attainment, the more parents get involved.
  • The most important finding from the point of view of this review is that parental involvement in the form of ‘at-home good parenting’ has a significant positive effect on children’s achievement and adjustment even after all other factors shaping attainment have been taken out of the equation. In the primary age range the impact caused by different levels of parental involvement is much bigger than differences
    associated with variations in the quality of schools. The scale of the
    impact is evident across all social classes and all ethnic groups.
  • Other forms of parental involvement do not appear to contribute to the scale of the impact of ‘at-home’ parenting.
  • Differences between parents in their level of involvement are associated with social class, poverty, health, and also with parental perception of their role and their levels of confidence in fulfilling it.Some parents are put off by feeling put down by schools and teachers.
  • Research affords a clear model of how parental involvement works.
    This model is described in the report. In essence parenting has its
    influence indirectly through shaping the child’s self concept as a
    learner and through setting high aspirations.
  • Research on interventions to promote parental involvement reveals a large
    number of approaches ranging from parent training programmes, through
    initiatives to enhance home school links and on to programmes of family
    and community education.
  • Evaluations of this very extensive activity reveal:
  • There is a perceived increased need and an evident increase in demand for such support
  • High levels of creativity and commitment are evident amongst
    providers and high levels of appreciation are recorded by clients.

The full report can be downloaded from here

Join us

The UN Convention the Rights of the Child, the very piece of legislation that establishes the rights and duties of parents for the best interest of their children, has been ratified globally, in all countries except the USA. European parents have 30 years of experience working for protecting the rights of their children by joining forces in a European organisation.

Global challenges, as well as local challenges that may be faced knowing answers from other localities call for a wider cooperation among parents from all over the world. This is the reason why we are calling everybody, including parents, but also teachers, social workers, researchers, psychologists, teacher trainers, students, policy makers, etc. who are interested in supporting parents, to join us in a new global parents’ network.

A group of parents from all over Europe and beyond has decided to launch the International Parents’ Network, with the ambition to establish a global forum and global lobby group for parents and on issues for parents. Our aim is to start an online discussion, a sharing of knowledge, relevant research and experiences, as well as trying to trigger further research and lobby together for policy change.

To start with we are going to cover the following topics:

  • supporting parents to become the best educators of their children
  • post-PISA: increasing parental involvement in formal education for thinking and acting together for education suitable for 21st century children
  • fighting illiteracy, promoting reading
  • equal opportunities for girls and women, education of girls and mothers
  • supporting parents in becoming the main advocates of the rights of the child
  • the right to mother tongue and mother culture, even for migrants
  • digital literacy and living in the digital age
  • empowerment for active citizenship and participation
  • fighting xenophobia, hate speech, exclusion, supporting inclusion for a peaceful future

You can join us by sending an e-mail to the following address: InternationalParentsNetwork@gmail.com) and expressing your wish to act for parents and children. We are building our community online first, but with the ambition of organising a first global meeting for parents – in person, but also offering possibilities to join us online – at the beginning of 2017.

Join us today to support good parenting and defend the rights of our children.