This story was first published in The Straits Times on Dec 28, 2013
DECADES of research overseas and locally have shown that the more parents are involved in their children's education, the better their children perform in school.
Children with more involved parents enjoy school more and have better school attendance. They are also more emotionally and socially well-adjusted and better able to handle stress.
A National Institute of Education (NIE) study of 150 high-income couples published in 2001 found that it is not money but active engagement in their children's education that made a difference in how well their children performed in school.
NIE lecturer Lana Khong Yiu Lan found that children of parents who do not leave everything to tutors, or who give up their jobs for their offspring's sake, often do well in examinations.
Such parents are often seen in or around school, trying to keep themselves informed about the latest developments in education from the principal and other parents.
The study focused on high-income families to see how well-educated parents in the top 20 per cent of earners allocate resources and time to their children's education.
The aim was to find out whether the way they help their children could be applied to the less well-off.
It concluded that the most important ingredients for good school performance are family involvement, sacrifice and awareness of educational matters, and that the less well-off who put in the same effort should not feel deprived in any way.
Parents can use community libraries and subsidised tuition programmes run by community self-help groups to give their children that extra edge.
Much research has also been done on the importance of the role of fathers.
Again, research has shown that children with involved fathers are better academic achievers. They are more likely to get As, and have better numeracy and verbal skills.
What parents can do
THERE are many simple, everyday things that parents can do to become more engaged in their children's learning, according to experts.
For starters, instead of asking their children about their marks in school tests or examinations, parents can ask about their day in school.
It signals the fact that they are interested in their schooling and think it is important.
At home, parents can provide an environment that encourages learning and school activities.
They should ensure there is some quiet time without the television and other distractions when homework can be completed.
Parents are also advised to visit the school early in the year to meet the teachers and principal so they can establish a mutual relationship of respect and trust.
And one of the best things any parent can do is to become a volunteer in school.
A parent's presence in school conveys an important message to the child about the value placed on schooling. It also gives parents a good understanding of what the school community is like.
But if that is not possible because of work or other commitments, look for other ways to help out at home.
For example, parents can make phone calls to other parents to help arrange school-related activities or assist in editing the school newsletter.