There is no single stakeholder more vested in a child’s education than his or her own parents. There has never been and there will never be someone to champion children’s futures more so than their own mothers and fathers. This premise is key to understanding the value of institutionalizing the role of parents in the education system in Mexico, and its impact on education policy . There are clear incentives for this alignment; it will just become a matter of finding the appropriate way to include this inherent parental involvement in the formal education process. Here are some of those incentives for Mexico to do so.
First, parents will always want to know more about their children’s performance and development in school. Finding new ways to formalize parent participation at the school level can be easy -- whether for a Monday morning week launch, civic events or parent-teacher conferences. Parents can easily be persuaded to learn more about what goes on in schools. This interest can be turned into formal roles later such as participation in school committees, school boards and other advisory positions.
There certainly have been previous examples of formal participation from parents such as parents’ councils, committees and associations in education. However, most of them have been related to private education and higher income families. Institutionalization of parent involvement should be across the whole school system for it to become an effective way for parents to legally oversee activities and to have a say in school procedures. Principals and teachers should be able to collaborate closely with any parents who understand or want to understand what is happening in schools.
Second, there is a simple statistic that confirms the importance of parents: Parents outnumber teachers. They might even outnumber students in some cases. The professional, institutional and rational participation of parents could balance Teacher Unions in a direct way. In other words, classroom-by-classroom, parents have statistical relevance and should be listened to. Teachers would have to find a more progressive and inclusive way to talk to parents. This could change the dynamics between the unions and education authorities when they find themselves negotiating with a much more participative society. Teachers in the United States had to find a similar alternative: to find in a socially accepted solution, the traditional role of parents, a common solution. This approach is also true in many countries in Europe.
Third, parents should be provided with actual education alternatives for their children. Parents will recognize the value of their input as long as it is perceived as meaningful and taken into account when making decisions. The system should provide parents options, alternatives, and the right to “vote with their feet”. The legal and managerial provisions that would permit this type of parental involvement should then reward those schools and teachers that deserve recognition.
We see parents across Mexico who want to have these changes. One example is the Oaxaca teacher situation last December, where parents effectively removed teachers. However, they lacked the jurisdiction and the management process to balance teacher abuse. Parents needed an institutional recourse to change the teachers and reconfigure school reality. Certainly, the development of an institutional recourse like this is one of the innovations argued in the decentralization process of Mexico’s education policy. Those involved in the educational system, students and parents even teachers, should be able to evaluate and correct when necessary. The Oaxaca case is just only of many cases where parents knew better and some became engaged until their voices were heard. Parents have all the good reasons to be objective when it comes to assessing what goes on in schools. All parents across the country have a common motivation: their own children’s success.
Fourth, regardless of their socio-economic reality, parents share individual and common goals in the fates of their children. They are all collectively building the Mexican citizens of the future. They all want their children to advance and succeed. This common motivation should be utilized in the education process in the way of school boards and the supervisory boards. Countries like Finland effectively do this by having parents come in and collectively leverage their interests to improve the schools in which their children are educated.
These are four natural incentives for parent institutional involvement in the educational system. As we see these incentives go beyond institutional lines due to what is at stake for the family: access to opportunity. Secondary regulations after the recent Education Reforms should include provisions at the State level for the incremental participation of parents at their schools mostly by overseeing activities and participating in advisory boards. This would be an essential way to promote involvement and high stakes culture as well as include all stakeholders involved in the educational process.
We need to plan new ways to develop human capital solutions. The inclusion of parents is not only a natural way but also a convenient one. Hopefully, the secondary legislation processing Mexico becomes another way to promote more human investment and participation: the institutional investment of parents in their children’s education.
It is ironic to discuss human capital formation or accumulation in the educational system without true generational involvement. When referring to human capital accumulation, it pertains to the academic progression from one generation to the next. This phenomenon cannot be discussed without parental involvement. Parental participation is crucial to the human capital development of Mexico and its future.
Parents could drive the next wave of education reform in Mexico. Parents already share an individualized vision of a better Mexico in their children. They could as readily envision a better Mexico collectively if grouped with other parents and teachers across the socio-economic spectrum Let us make this effort institutional. It is time to bring the parents formally into the education system! After all, education does start at home.
In the following months Gildardo Gutierrez will be delivering a series of articles on education in partnership with the Mexico Institute. The series will examine a set of initiatives that aim to transform the education system and that intend to bring innovation to the industry. New management approaches, school district implementation, regional education authorities, fostering new academic programs and parent involvement in Mexico.
Gildardo Gutierrez has founded education institutions in Mexico and the United States. He serves in the Board of Trustees of the National Hispanic Institute and other education organizations. He actively promotes international education agreements. He is also a regular guest in Telemundo and Univision for education topics. In 2013 Gildardo published the book “Futuro Educativo: Distritos”.
Gildardo is currently researching on education at the McCourt School of Public Policy in Georgetown University. He also serves as President for the Mexican Business Council in Washington DC. (Asociacion de Empresarios Mexicanos).