Friendly relationships between students, teachers and parents lead to improved learning capacity among school students rather than financial support, suggests a new study.
According to the study, better social capital affects reading and math scores of primary school children three- to five-times more than financial capital. Social capital is the name given to the network of relationships between school officials, teachers, parents and the community that builds trust and norms promoting academic achievement.
“We found that money is certainly important. But this study also shows that social capital deserves a larger role in our thinking about cost-effective ways to support students, especially the most vulnerable,” said Roger Goddard, professor at the Ohio State University in the US.
The study was published in the Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk. It involved 5,003 students and teachers of 78 public elementary schools in Michigan.
In the survey, teachers have to complete a questionnaire that measured the levels of social capital in their schools. The questionnaire also included the statements like “Parent involvement supports learning here“, “Teachers in this school trust their students” and “Community involvement facilitates learning here”. Ratings given by teachers on above statements also helped in estimation of social capital level in the school.
The team used state-mandated methods of reading and mathematics tests to measure learning among fourth-grade students. The results showed that, students of the schools spending more money performed better than those that spent less. However, the effect of social capital was three times larger than financial capital on math scores and five times larger on reading scores.
“Social capital was not only more important to learning than instructional expenditures, but also more important than the schools’ poverty, ethnic makeup or prior achievement,” Goddard said.
“More than half of the social capital that schools have access to has nothing to do with the level of poverty in the communities they serve,” he added.