We often hear that education is a triangle of some kind with three important stakeholders – teachers, parents and students. However, I’m not convinced this is right. In my experiences with parents, they often just want to make sure that their children are happy and are roughly fulfilling the social role of a student.
There are competing priorities across all three of these stakeholders. Bluntly, teachers want students to learn as much as possible. Students want to spend time with their friends and engage their curiosity. Parent want their children to be happy and not be naughty. At least, this has been my experience. The challenge with this third point in the triangle – the parents – is that teachers don’t often get a chance to influence their views. We see them twice a year for five minutes at a time, hardly long enough to have any lasting impact or to make anything but the most cursory of comments about education’s importance.
And yet we see that students who have parents who value education, think students of Chinese and subcontinental heritage in Australia, score much higher on standardised tests. Australian NAPLAN results for students in these groups are much higher than for other immigrant groups and higher than local students, controlling for language difficulties. Australia strikes me as relatively non-academic in its outlook – look at the national heroes, all drug snorting beer swilling partner bashing AFL stars if the newspapers are to be believed. It is no wonder the attitude towards education amongst some students is less than ideal.