A lesson in parental engagement

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 November, 2011, 12:00am


Between tiger mums and pussy parents, there is a third way. The new findings of Pisa, a testing programme aimed at evaluating 15-year-old students by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, are good news for everyone. Admittedly, the title 'What can parents do to help their children succeed in school?' is no match for The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

But the four-page summary of five years of Pisa research should be read by every teacher and parent. Its findings and advice may be far more relevant. So move over Amy Chua. According to Pisa's new study:

'Fifteen-year-old students whose parents often read books with them in their first year of primary school show markedly higher scores in Pisa [tests] than students whose parents read with them infrequently or not at all.'

'The performance advantage among students whose parents read to them in their early school years is evident regardless of the family's socio-economic background.'

'Parents' engagement with their 15-year-olds is strongly associated with better performance in Pisa [tests].'

But don't beat yourself up if you can't read to the kids every night. Discuss the books they are reading with them regularly, and talk to them about books, TV programmes and movies that you yourself are interested in.

Talk to them regularly about what they have done in school - and about your work. Discuss social and political issues that might interest them or you.

The Pisa study compares parents who do these things and those who rarely do or not at all in Hong Kong and 13 other economies. It finds the same or similarly positive correlations in test scores in every case and across socio-economic classes.

The message is clear. You need to engage your children and challenge them intellectually, at home and on a regular basis. But don't be a control freak or a complete wuss.