Side Story: Parental education, just as important as early childhood education
Side Story is an experimental segment where I write down and explore random thoughts that appear in my head (being in the shower is not a necessary condition for these thoughts).
Disclaimer: Parental education and early childhood education are not my areas of expertise. The following are my thoughts — an exploration of ideas, and an invitation for debate on the topic of parental education.
I take the public transit (for environmental, political, and financial reasons), and on my way home from work one day, a mother with her child (I’m assuming the relationship between the two here) caught my attention. The child, whose age was around 3 to 5 years old, was tearing up pages from a book while his mother just looked on without a bother. The mother looked tired. She was struggling to keep her eyes open and yawned every few minutes. If I were that boy, I would be getting a lecture and a beating from my mother, with the beating preceding the lecture.
As an outsider, I am in no position to tell the mother, or any mother for that matter, on how to educate their child. However, I do believe that there has to be a standard set of principles and rules that every parent should follow to successfully raise their children. I define “success” here by the child’s ability to lead a contributive way of life and improve on their family’s situation.
Education begins at home. You can’t blame the school for not putting into your child what you don’t put into him.
From the Welsh government to California’s Teacher Association and California State PTA, almost all of us can agree that education begins at home. Children spend less than 8 hours a day in kindergartens, preschools, and nurseries while the remainder of the day is spent at home with their parents or a caregiver. Sending your child to receive formal education in schools is (relatively) easy. There are teachers who will educate, inspire, encourage, and deal with your child’s high energy levels. As a parent, all you have to do is attend the PTA meetings, check and help with your child’s homework, complain about why little Timmy’s grades are not improving, and pay the appropriate school fees (I may be oversimplifying here).
What about when the children are home? Are first-time parents or young parents ready to be role models for their children? Do they know what is important for their children’s growth and improvement? These questions came to my mind, having witnessed the interaction (or lack thereof) between the mother and child on the public transit. It would be difficult to raise successful children if parents themselves do not, or are incapable to, support their children’s growth and learning. If they do not understand the importance of early childhood education, they would not think about sending their children to school.
Let’s assume that the mother and child are living in poverty, where the mother did not receive any formal education and only has basic language proficiency. Is she capable to raise her child to break out from the cycle of poverty? The answer is yes, if she as a parent, has the right principles and mindset to support her child’s learning and growth. In general, parents are willing to do anything for their children, but not knowing why, how, and what to do will set them back. It is like wanting to lose weight but not knowing which exercises are most effective and what proper nutrition is. This is why parental education is important.
Expectant parents, especially if this is their first child and even more so if they are in poverty, should go through classes to learn about child health (stick it up to the anti-vaxxers) and education. Those in the upper and middle-class have the privilege of paying for and attending these classes, while the poor do not have the time nor disposable income to afford such luxuries. The government, private sector, and civil society need to come together and provide such parental education classes for free, or even pay these expectant parents who are in poverty to attend. Parents who live in poverty may need to forego their income to attend these classes, thus as a reimbursement, a stipend should be given to them for attending a class.
It is in the interest of the government to do so because better parental education translates to better child and human development, which in the long-run benefits the country with a healthy and productive workforce. Meanwhile, the private sector and civil society may also benefit from such an investment through reduced crime rates and improved social mobility.
Therefore, before we think about early childhood education, it is important to pay attention to parental education to ensure that expectant parents are equipped with the right knowledge to raise their child out of poverty and become a contributive member of society.
What are your thoughts about parental education? Have you gone through formal parental education classes? Let me know your thoughts in the comments and let’s have a conversation. Thanks for reading!