Parents influence exam success more than schools, study shows
American research suggests that parental involvement is the most significant factor in a child’s success, regardless of the quality of their schooling.
A team of American researchers have analysed more than 10,000 teenagers across the United States. The study is to gain insight into what factors are most important in insuring a child’s exam success.
The data includes information on schools' achievement scores, or ‘school capital’, and compares it with parents' involvement in homework and school events, or ‘social capital’.
The researchers found that pupils whose families were supportive and involved in school life performed better academically. Perhaps surprisingly, children with engaged parents who study at weak schools outperformed children, with less engaged parents, studying at high-performing schools.
The most important factors in parent-child relationships were defined as trust, good communication and active engagement.
The cornerstones of effective schooling were also defined in the research. These are involving students in extra-curricular activities, strong teacher morale and the ability of teachers to address the needs of individual students.
The findings have prompted the researchers, who include Dr Toby Parcel of North Carolina State University, to reiterate the importance of family in a child’s education.
"Parents should invest time in their children, checking homework, attending school events and letting kids know school is important. That's where the payoff is,” said Dr Parcel.
To enable parents to become more involved in their child’s education, the researchers recommend the introduction of more flexible working hours.
“Supportive workplace policies, such as flexitime, would allow parents to attend school meetings and participate in extra-curricular activities with their children without adversely affecting their jobs," the researchers added.
The study also suggests that enabling a parent to involve themselves in their children’s education could help to shrink social divides. Previous research has suggested that middle class and working class children experience different, “unequal”, childhoods.
"Middle class parents use concerted cultivation, creating a full schedule of activities for their children to encourage academic development. In contrast, working class and poor parents schedule far fewer activities,” the researchers argue.
The paper is published in the online journal Research in Social Stratification and Mobility.