Parents volunteer in our schools for various reasons but a key underlying reason is simply their love for their child, and to play an active role in their child’s education. Parents are the first teachers in their child’s life and can also partner schools to give their child a more holistic education. In this, parents have different experiences and would benefit from sharing and learning from one another.
It was with this in mind that the Ministry of Education (MOE) approached a group of parent volunteers to organise a Parent Support Group Conference, for parents to share their parenting experiences and good practices with one another. Held in conjunction with MOE’s ExCEL Fest 2014 on 12 April 2014 at Suntec City, the inaugural Parent Support Group Conference saw a packed hall of over 450 parents representing PSGs from schools island-wide.
“I hope that our parent support groups will create a wider network, learn from one another, share experiences and together, we can bring out the best in our children,” said Education Minister Heng Swee Keat.
More than 95% of schools today have PSGs or Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs), as compared to 17% about 20 years ago. This has certainly enriched our students’ experiences in school, as parents and schools strengthen their partnership to benefit the children.
Creating Special Memories
“Because of his involvement, my father and I have a common topic to talk about – school!” said Caitlin Khoo, a Primary 5 student from South View Primary School, as she recalled special times spent with her dad.
Holding up placards and giving out stickers at MRT stations, Caitlin and her dad worked together with other students, teachers and parents to spread the message of being gracious on public transport. Through this Values-in-Action project, they encouraged people to queue up at the train stations and to give up their seats to those who need them.
Another memorable moment for Caitlin was a Children’s Day celebration at school. The school had a mascot for the event and to her surprise, the mascot hugged her. She then realised that it was her dad in the costume.
“I was so touched that he would wear the mascot costume because he perspires a lot,” said Caitlin, “I was so proud of him.”
Caitlin’s story was just one of the many examples of successful parent-school partnership shared at the conference.
Sharing Expertise with Fellow Parents
How do PSGs improve and sustain their efforts?
“A fellow parent’s voice is more credible and authentic, because they have gone through the experience,” said Minister Heng, who encouraged PSG members to support one another and be ambassadors for their schools.
Mr Jason Wong, Chairman of the PSG in Victoria School and the figure behind the Dads for Life movement and Yellow Ribbon Project, shared his experience of building up a community of Fathers at St Hilda’s Primary School.
“Mothers raise boys, fathers raise men,” said Jason, with a big smile as one of the Conference speakers.
With the support of the Principal, Jason and his team of fathers used the football field, basketball court and other school facilities during the evenings and weekends, to interest more fathers to be involved in their child’s education. He even created a video, to capture the thoughts and hopes of children, to move the hearts of parents.
“I was very heartened to hear that many schools were interested to reach out to fathers to be more involved in their child’s education,” said Jason.
Jason also shared that schools could glean lessons and expertise from schools with successful father support groups, such as St Hilda’s Primary School, the group of Anglo-Chinese Schools, Pasir Ris Secondary School and Unity Secondary School.
“Parents know that they are not alone. We can do this together,” said Jason.
Working with Schools
With the support of school leaders, PSGs can better understand the goals and needs of the school and complement the work of the school staff.
Sharing her experience, Mrs Jenny Yeo, who was previously the Principal of South View Primary School and currently the Lead Associate in Partnerships and Engagement at MOE, encouraged Principals to be more visible and have an open door policy. By being open and listening to feedback and ideas from parents, her school had benefited from the resources and abilities of parents. A school could for example, open up its facilities for parents to hold meetings and activities to facilitate the work of the PSG.
“How impactful a partnership can be depends on how well the PSGs and schools relate to each other,” said Jenny.