Strengthening Parent-School Communications through Mobile Apps

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It is very important for parents and teachers to communicate with each other for holistic growth of students. How Mobile Apps may enhance parents’ involvement for better learning experience of students, observes Beas Dev Ralhan, CEO and Co-founder, Next Education, for Elets News Network (ENN).

Teachers and parents are the two most influential contributors to a child’s early years. Research indicates that an effective liaison between parents and teachers is essential to bringing out the best in every child. However, a lot of factors get in the way of meaningful communication between these two groups. Technology, which has gratified humans with many uses, can be beneficial in this area too. Since most parents and teachers are active smartphone users, they can use tech-mediated means to channelise communication.

Disconnect between teachers and parents

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Beas Dev Ralhan, CEO and Co-founder, Next Education

Beas Dev Ralhan, CEO and Co-founder, Next Education

Parental involvement in school is often erroneously considered to be limited to attending parent-teacher meetings and signing report cards. Oftentimes, debates on improving the quality of education do not always focus on the importance of parents’ inputs. Nonetheless, an inclusion of their inputs is undeniably paramount. Unwavering year-round parental participation and attention is essential to a child’s academic excellence.

However, parents sometimes hesitate to connect with schools and gauge their child’s progress because either they are unsure about the questions they need to ask, or they don’t have the time to regularly meet teachers. This may be interpreted by teachers as disinterest on the part of parents. “Teachers perceive that families don’t want to be involved when, in fact, families don’t know how to be involved,” states Karen C. Salinas, the communication director for the Centre on School, Family, and Community Partnerships at John Hopkins University. Then again, teachers complain about being questioned by pushy parents for their teaching methods and the performance of their child. A lack of effective home-school interaction hampers a child’s all-round development.

A shift in approach

It is essential that healthy communication between teachers and parents exists. They have to be proactive communicators; occasional sharing of information about a child does not help. Schools should try to dispel parents’ discomfort. This does not imply that the onus is on the management and the teachers alone. It simply means that positive communication, such as encouraging messages from teachers, can motivate parents to actively be a part of their child’s learning process.  Parents and teachers should be able to collaborate, because the project they have at hand is the same: helping children reach their true potential. Therefore, both groups need to realise their shared responsibilities in this project and contribute accordingly.

Tech-mediated communication

As already mentioned, since most teachers, parents and school management are active smartphone users, they can use technology to communicate with each other. In fact, a report titled Online Education in India: 2021, jointly published by KPMG and Google, mentions that there are “around 290 million smartphone users in India today”, and an addition of another 180 million to the user base is expected by 2021. The report mentions that this, along with factors such as internet penetration and increasing disposable income, is a growth driver of online education.

Staying updated with technology

It is important that every school management uses technological solutions such as school management software to keep parents informed about their child’s learning progress and general behaviour in the classroom. In fact, Information and Communication Technology, a scheme that was launched in 2004 by the Ministry of Human Resource Development of India, recommends the deployment of a school-based management information system (MIS) that acts as a “single-window clearing house on all information”.

When parents probe a child about their school activities, the child may feel intruded on and become uncommunicative. Parents can engage in a dialogue with the help of asynchronous mails where simultaneous communication is not required. Furthermore, they can also avail of synchronous instant messaging, if needed. School management software is also available as apps besides having their presence on the web. Schools can use these apps and encourage parents to start using the apps for effective communication.

Benefits of using apps for school communication

These apps allow schools to send SMS alerts to parents about school events and activities. Teachers can also share course structure and content with parents via these apps. Parents can view reports of students’ progress on the apps. The reports are made available as graphs for easy comprehension. Often, parents are unaware about the performance of their children till the semester report cards reach home. However, regular progress reports can help parents stay abreast with their children’s learning and take the necessary corrective measures, if required.

They can also engage in conversations with teachers about their wards’ behaviour with their peers. If they are worried about their child’s safety and whereabouts, they can even check the location of the school buses via GPS tracking. They can also get notified when the payment of fees is due and get a detailed report of their wards’ attendance. NextERP, our school management software, allows schools and parents to access a host of different reports as well as facilitates communication among different stakeholders.

Communication made easy

A parent-teacher relationship is not an easy one. While asynchronous emails make formal communication easier, synchronous instant messaging can be made possible through an app to promote informal communication. A mix of these two types of communication can greatly help parent-teacher relationships. Tech-mediated school-home communication can encourage parental involvement in students’ academics and thereby improve the performance of students. Studies prove that children whose parents are highly invested in their academics not only do well in their studies but also like to attend school regularly and are involved in their studies.

While technology and the changing school ecosystems make it very easy for parents to stay updated with their child’s progress, it is important that parents actually use these resources. However, parents should refrain from going overboard in their efforts to keep track of everything that happens in their children’s lives. They should respect their child’s privacy and give them space and freedom to think for themselves.

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