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Where parents go to school to help their children learn better

Where parents go to school to help their children learn better
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Educating children is increasingly becoming a demanding chore for parents With scientific studies all over the globe suggesting that the involvement...

Amaravati: Educating children is increasingly becoming a demanding chore for parents. With scientific studies all over the globe suggesting that the involvement of families and the community in school affairs could contribute significantly to learning outcomes of the pupils, Bridge International Academies which runs a network of low-cost English medium schools for the under-served sections of rural areas in Andhra Pradesh has been involving parents and citizens from among the community in the management of its schools.

Meet Siva, an autorickshaw driver and grandfather of two of Bridge International Academies students at Bhimadole, in West Godavari. He is the president of the auto drivers’ union in town, but why does he go to school every other day?

A local celebrity and better known as Siva, Seera Sambasiva Rao is the chairperson of Bhimadole's School Management Committee (SMC) that represents parents and community at large. As chairperson of the SMC, Siva plays a crucial role in the day-to-day running of the school, and is also a voice for the parents of over 120 students.

Siva's work is crucial to the long-term growth of the school. When parents have concerns, Siva coordinates between different SMC members and the Academy Manager to find solutions. Recently, Siva used his connections at the autorickshaw unions to facilitate transportation services for children from more remote areas to attend Bridge school at Bhimadole.

Parents and grandparents such as Siva are part of the growing movement in schools to build social capital. By fostering closer working relationships between school administrators, teachers, parents, and the community, schools are able to build trust, and bolster students’ learning capabilities. A recent study conducted by Ohio State University, in the state of Michigan found that social capital had a three to five times larger effect on reading and math abilities than financial capital.

Bridge International Academies has implemented this best practice at all its schools across Andhra Pradesh well ahead of the times. “At Bridge, we believe that establishing deep and meaningful relationships with parents is essential to ensure pupils’ success. Not only are they the most important advocates for their children’s education, but they also have knowledge, passion, and ideas to address the needs of their school and community,” says Ranjit Koshi, Managing Director of AP's Bridge International Academies.

Establishing and running a School Management Committee does require commitment and hard work both by the school management and parents. Shaik Basheer is the chairperson of another Bridge school in Telaprolu, in Guntur district.

Shaik Bhasheer, who runs a jewelry shop and sells life insurance, admits it involves a lot of responsibility. “Earlier, I had no idea about the school. I visit only to pay fees,” he says. “Now I come at least three times a week, so now I know a lot and I have a good relationship with the Academy manager.” He believes the most important aspect of being chairperson is bringing the academy closer to the community. Parent Monica, a Pharmacy graduate, gets involved in the committee to voice the views and concerns of mothers. “I always wanted to help people and society. This committee provides me an opportunity,” she says.

The involvement of parents such as Siva, Shaik Basheer and Monica is at the heart of another key finding of the University of Ohio study: that strong social capital helps everyone lift everyone up, regardless of their background. By working together with the school management, SMC members have been able to bring the Academy closer to the community. This has a knock-on effect on student access to community resources, and enhances their learning abilities.

The experience of Bridge International Academies should serve as encouragement to all schools to get more parents involved in school management. "It takes effort, and requires time to mature. But once established, parents and the SMCs become our biggest champions! It’s well worth the investment in time and effort.”, Koshi says.

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