Challenges of Parental Involvement in Education


This post is written by Salin Loeum, the Education & Community Manager from our program partner, HHA Cambodia. Salin is a founding member of HHA Cambodia, and has been working with the organisation for 10 years. Salin was a recipient of the 2019 Diana Award.

Strengthening the quality of education is not a single issue. Many factors need to be involved such as school, teacher, student, parent, and other relevant parties. Importantly, it needs a very strong commitment of involvement from those parties to make it happens. As Human and Hope Association is a grassroots NGO which mainly focus on education, the most difficult problem that we have faced is the lack of involvement from the students’ parents. We have been trying to deal with this issue, as we believe that parental involvement plays an important role in their children’s education.

Why do we believe that parental involvement plays an important role in their children’s education?

Researchers report that parent participation in their children’s schooling frequently:

  • enhances children’s self-esteem
  • improves children’s academic achievement
  • improves parent-child relationships
  • helps parents develop positive attitudes towards school
  • and a better understanding of the schooling process.

Added to that, when parents are involved in their children’s education, both children and parents are likely to benefit. Moreover, in Cambodia, especially at the countryside, parents are the ones who have more time to stay with their children than teachers do. As parents, they have to be responsible for their children’s education, too. Particularly, our mission is to empower them to create a sustainable future for themselves, therefore, it’s the best method to let the parents and their children gain a sense of responsibility to better their lives.

Why the involvement of parents in education is challenging?

There are many reasons from the parents and also from the school for this lack of involvement. Through our experience of working with student’s parents, we can conclude that the parental involvement is challenging because:

Shortage of time – Parents have to work to maintain the financial standing of the family. They have to work from dawn to dusk every day.  In particular, if there has been a divorce or death in the family, they probably have trouble financially.

Bad experience – Some parents don’t feel welcomed to go to school. They might have bad experience or memories at school such as they are the victims of school violence or they have failed in school. Therefore, they would not have desire to return to a place that they only served to remind their own failures or nightmares.

Illiteracy – This is also a case that some parents do not want to go to school because they think that they are illiterate, they feel not confident to talk or don’t know what to talk to teachers, and they don’t know the system of the school. This also the reason that most parents use it as an excuse to neglect their children’s education. In addition, they are not aware of the significance of education so that they just don’t care about it. Moreover, they also believe that only teacher have to be responsible for their kids’ education. If their kids don’t do well at school, they will blame teacher. They don’t understand their responsibility towards their children’s learning.

Lack of sensitiveness from the school system – when the school does not care about the parental involvement in education, most of the student parents just don’t care, too. Some parents really need to be encouraged to involve more in their children’s education and they need the school to understand their socioeconomic level, personal, and financial problems, etc. Furthermore, when the parents want to involve in their children’s education, some schools don’t encourage or sometimes accuse them of interference.

What can we help to enhance the parental involvement in their children’s education?

There are many ways to enhance the parental involvement in children’s education, as it depends on the real situation. Here are the two main ideas that would help you to deal with this issue:

Create parental involvement policy – The school should form a clear policy in order to smooth the involvement of parents in their children’s education and make sure the parents are encouraged to talk and discuss about their children’s problems. It sometimes does not an easy task to do, as it will take a lot of time and effort; therefore, we need the committed principles or teachers to do such thing. In addition, the school can provide consultation service to assist them with solving their personal, financial, and children’s problems. If the school works with the poor, if possible, it should provide short-term training about the skills that most parents in that community need to better their lives because when they have a better life, they will have more time to concentrate on their children’s learning.

Building good communication – People always talk conveniently to people they trust. Building trust with them is a crucial way to show that we understand and care about them and their children. The school should keep in touch with student parents about the progress of their children at school and provide suggestion of the ways that they can give assistance to their children’s education on an ongoing basis. Be friendly and show our sympathy to them. By the school being more aware of the circumstance of those families, better communication can be established. Where necessary, the schools can organize the meeting with student parents in a certain time consistently to update the information of the school, their children’s education, and so on. It might not works well for the first time as they need some times to understand and later on they will involve more in this kind of meeting after they understood the process of the school system and their responsibilities and build sufficient confident to share and discuss about their children’s learning.

What Human and Hope Association has done to better parental involvement?

Human and Hope Association has done many things, which enable to improve the parental involvement such as:

Community outreach – We go direct to the families to follow up and discuss regarding to student problems and to recruit new students for our programs. That is a good way as our staff can express their empathy and discuss directly to them about their children’s problems and their problems as well so that we can build a trusting relationship with each other.

Parental meeting – We regularly hold a meeting with our new student’s parents twice a year. This meeting is to show the process of what we are doing in our education program and our responsibilities towards their children. Particularly, we explain them how important their responsibilities and involvement are in their children’s education. Besides, we invite student parents to join our end semester ceremony to show the positive results, to congratulate on their children’s learning, and to enhance our communication with them.

Child protection – We strictly follow the child protection policy. We provide a safe learning environment to our students and make sure they are not abused. This makes the parents feel confident to send their kids to study with us and to discuss about their children’s problems.

Sewing class – We provide sewing skills to marginalized student parents and villagers to have a specific skill to earn a living. As a result, most sewing students whose children was not in our school, sent their children to study with us. They have always been discussing the problems related to their children with us.

Community workshops – We provide many important workshops to our students, student parents, and villagers such as – family happiness, budget training, child protection, traffic law, environment, chemical-free farming, good touch bad touch, and hygiene. These workshops equip them with the skills and knowledge to better their family relationships, financial situation, health and safety, and so on. When they gain more knowledge and their family situations are better, they will more likely to involve in their children’s learning.

Opportunity scholarships – We give a chance to poor children to access to education by providing school materials and a free education service to them. However, their parents have to sign and follow a contract that demonstrates about their commitment and responsibilities towards their children’s education. Therefore, we have more authority to deal with their lack of participation in their kids’ learning.

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