Home-School Partnership : Chances for parental involvement in schooling in Germany
Home-school partnerships involve collaborative working relationships between families and schools. They can support students in more productive and consistent work and behavior, which in turn can improve students' interest, motivation, and engagement in learning both at home and school.
The Parent Advisory Boards (Gesamtelternbeirat – GEB) for public schools in Germany are typically organized at the town or city level. GRBs are typically led by a chairperson, and their board members and other members are elected annually. Although any parent can run for office, you will need to be able to speak and understand German reasonably to be considered.
The General Educator Board's primary mission is to advocate for parental rights and interests, to counsel and educate parents on significant matters, and to serve as go-betweens when conflicts arise. Boards meet at regular intervals (e.g., quarterly, annually). In addition, many educational institutions frequently organize community events, such as fairs and open days, which provide an occasion for parents to participate in activities and get to know other people.
GEB is also offered at private schools, though it is more common for these to be organized at the level of the individual school. Some might join forces to establish a board that serves the entire town. Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs) are common in international schools such as American and British schools in Germany. These schools typically have a separate Board of Governors that includes parent representatives. PTAs are also common in schools in the United States and the United Kingdom.
About Home-School Partnership
Not only in Germany, but all over the world (OECD, 2018), parents are recognized as being one of the most important factors in their children's ability to achieve academic success (Wild, 2021). In their meta-analysis, Barger et al. (2019) investigate the various ways in which parents can be involved in their children's educational experiences. Parental involvement at home can take the form of cognitive-intellectual support in the form of reading, museum or library outings, or assistance with homework. It can also take the form of conversations with children about issues pertaining to school and encouraging their learning processes.
The various ways of providing support for a child correlate positively with the child's adjustment across all of the different dimensions, with the exception of the very last one. Children who receive support experience benefits not only in terms of their academic achievement, their motivation, and their engagement in learning, but also in terms of their social adjustment (e.g. social competencies), their emotional adjustment (e.g. self-esteem), and a decrease in delinquent behavior. Children who receive support benefit not only in terms of their academic achievement, their motivation, and their engagement in learning (e.g. smoking, aggression, destruction of property).
Participation (such as volunteering in the classroom or on field trips, and maintaining open lines of communication with teachers) and governance are both forms of parental involvement that can occur in schools (e.g. membership of school boards). A participation on this level has the potential, albeit to a lesser degree, to assist parents in fostering academic achievement in their offspring (Barger et al., 2019, p. 872). In terms of Germany, Wild (2021) provides a synopsis of these correlations in the most recent Family Report that was prepared for the German government.
Low parental engagement
Low parental engagement was blamed for poor school performance and educational disadvantages. Because of this, policy programs throughout Europe have a tendency to engage parents more actively in order to improve the educational outcomes of children (Byrne & Paseka, 2020). Keeping in mind a continuum between familialism and de-familialism, between the responsibility of the family and the responsibility of the public or the state for learning outcomes, such policies can be classified on the side of familialism and appear in the context of most countries.
Concurrently, there are movements in Germany that lean toward defamilialism, such as the following: Not only is a shared responsibility between the school and the family or the parents required by law, but it is also ingrained in the various programs and initiatives (see examples in Killus & Paseka, 2020). Where once there was a widespread trend toward half-day schooling (lasting from 8 am until 2 pm at the latest, with students eating lunch at home or in special care facilities), there is now a growing trend toward all-day schooling, which begins between 7 am and continues until late afternoon and includes both lunch and extracurricular activities.
In addition to this, there has been an increase in the availability of full-day care for younger children. These kinds of tendencies can produce tension and ambivalence, both of which can be resolved only by the people directly involved.
Parents are considered to be an essential factor
Even though it is widely accepted that parents play a significant role in the education of their children, the topic of parents was only given a passing mention in the national political debate and in the programmatic papers (like those published by the KMK). On the other hand, when schools were closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, parents were "put in the spotlight" (Walper, 2021).
In this article, we will take a more in-depth look at the continuum of familialism and de-familialism and ask if there is evidence to support a shift in either direction. To begin, we will provide a description of the various roles that parents played prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. The challenges that were faced by schools, teachers, and parents, as well as their mutual expectations, are the primary focus of our analysis of representative surveys that were conducted during the pandemic.
A growing number of programs are being carried out in Germany with the goal of improving educational outcomes for children. These programs frequently involve the participation of parents and treat their involvement as the primary concern. We want to know what roles the parents were expected to play in these kinds of projects and programs. In the conclusion, we offer a critical analysis of the current situation in Germany from the vantage point of the overarching concept of de-familialism as opposed to familialism.
Pre-Covid-19 parental roles
The relationship between the school and the family/parents can be separated or shared, according to Epstein et al. (2018). Separated responsibility means parents care for children and schools educate them. Parents and schools share caregiving and education responsibilities.
Complex German law: The care and upbringing of children is a natural right and duty of parents. Children must attend school, and schools are under state supervision. Parents and schools must share responsibility for each child's development. This shared responsibility should be accomplished through meaningful cooperation between parents and the school. The 16 federal provinces ('Länder') in decentralized Germany influence legislation.
The federal provinces
The federal provinces are responsible for education, so 16 laws define options for parent-school cooperation and their implementation. Schools have considerable leeway to define and interpret the framework, as well as the amount and manner of participation and governance. Variability is high, so it's important to examine how this is put into practice, the documents produced, the specific communication, forms of cooperation for various opportunities (e.g. parental evenings, open house days, letters to parents), and how parents are addressed there.
A representative survey in Germany asked 3,000 parents how they felt about their children's teachers and school (Killus & Paseka, 2020): Parent partners? Teachers want to work with parents. Parent support? (I do homework) How satisfied are parents with teachers and schools for their children's academic success? (item for teacher satisfaction: "The teachers are competent"; item for school satisfaction: "The school offers many extracurricular activities for my child") Cluster analysis revealed three parent groups: A first group of parents sees themselves as partners and is happy with teachers and school conditions (52 percent of all parents).
Second-group parents feel less like partners, are less satisfied with teachers and school, and feel they must support their child due to teaching failures (23 percent). A third group of parents sees themselves as partners, is happy with teachers and school, but refuses to be school supporters (26 percent).
First, primary school parents, third, gymnasium parents, and second, parents who feel their child is overburdened with school. Parental socioeconomic or ethnic background had no effect. The data show parents' willingness to accept and fulfill their roles.
Several longitudinal studies examined parents' stress after schools closed. The data shows that parents (mothers and fathers) are more stressed than other women and men. Their workload increased because they had to care for their kids and help with schoolwork.
Planning and ensuring compatibility between unpaid family work and paid work was a heavy burden for many parents, especially if they worked from home. Short-term work helped, but often caused financial losses. Fathers admit spending more time on family matters, but mothers felt more responsibility. Whether this indicates more traditional family work roles is ambiguous.
Bujard et al. (2021) noted that besides gender, other factors increased single-parent stress. Single working parents use childcare facilities and full-day schools, but also informal options (e.g. grandparents). Due to the closure of such facilities and the ordered reduction of contact with relatives, caring and working simultaneously was difficult (Zinn & Bayer, 2021).
Unprivileged parents have a higher burden and stress than immigrant parents. How does stress affect homeschooling? 658 parents with school-aged children could be assigned to one of three groups after being asked about emotional stress, anxiety, and homeschooling. "Burdened parents" express home-excessive schooling's demands and fail to fulfill the role of 'teacher' They're anxious and disinterested in helping their kids learn at home (413 parents, 63 percent). For "relaxed parents," homeschooling challenges cause less stress and anxiety.
They're more enthusiastic about learning with their kids (87 parents, 13 percent). "Enthusiastic parents" find homeschooling beneficial and relaxing. They criticize school and the learning there, so home-schooling is welcomed. Their excitement and anxiety levels are high (158 parents, 24 percent). These groups' socioeconomic background is unknown.
Cooperation between school and parents
Cooperation between parents and schools is highly valued and desired, as there is strong evidence that it improves students' learning outcomes in a variety of areas. How did the collaboration between schools and parents work during the home-schooling period? Two aspects will be discussed in greater depth: parental support for children's learning and the number and quality of contacts with school.
Parental support for children's learning:
The majority of parents are willing to support their children's learning: they manage whether homework is completed, whether it is correct, and they solve problems with their children. Most parents admit to providing more support to their children than usual.
Contact between school and parents:
It is also worth noting the number of contact discrepancies between the assessments of parents and teachers. While most teachers say, they are available for questions, at least half of the parents complain about the lack of contact between them and teachers.
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We examined the role of parents before, during, and after the Covid 19 pandemic in this article. We began by outlining the various roles and the underlying national legislation in Germany that proclaims a shared responsibility between schools and parents. Because Germany has a decentralized political system in which the 16 federal provinces have significant power, the rules and recommendations differ in detail.
At the same time, as school supporters, parents were still held accountable for their children's learning outcomes, behavioral issues, and emotional development. This demonstrates a proclivity for familialism. If there were problems with learning and/or the child, the cooperation between family and school could be described as predominantly deficit-oriented. Many schools are undoubtedly attempting to create a more welcoming environment and new forms of contact that emphasize parents as experts..... Best wishes!