The Role Of Family In Education
(With special reference to parental responsibility)

Fr. Stephen Touthang *

Students appearing for the High School Leaving Certificate Examination (HSLC) in Feb 2014
Students appearing for the High School Leaving Certificate Examination (HSLC) in Feb 2014 :: Pix - Deepak Oinam

Family has a gargantuan role to play in the education of children. The term 'oikos' is the ancient Greek equivalent of a household or family. The Japanese have a term, kenzoku, which translated literally means "family". The connotation suggests a bond between people who've made a similar commitment and who possibly therefore share a similar destiny. It implies the presence of the deepest connection of friendship, of lives lived as comrades from the distant past.

Many of us have people in our lives with whom we feel the bond described by the word kenzoku. They may be family members, a mother, a brother, a daughter, a cousin. Time and distance do nothing to diminish the bond we have with these kinds of friends. Sociologically, a family is a group of people affiliated by consanguinity (by recognized birth), affinity (by marriage) or co-residence/shared consumption (nurture kinship). Membership of the immediate family may include a spouse, parent, brother and sister and son and daughter.

Here, what is important is the role of family in educating its members. In other words, it refers to the role and responsibility of parents towards their children. In the process of education, family has a primary role to play. Family is the proto-learning temple of every child. Therefore, parents have certain indispensable responsibilities:
1. Recognize your children as the greatest gift of God: Every parent must recognize that children are the greatest gift given to them and they have a mammoth responsibility to take care of this precious gift. You may be a billionaire, having all the comforts and amenities that the world can give, but what are all these to you if you do not have good, reliable and promising children? It is better to be poor and have good and promising children than be opulent and have unreliable and hopeless children. More wealth will give you more worry but better children will give you better hope. If you want your children to be someone great in the future, you need to give your time, love and attention. Your earning, feeding and paying their school fees and other needs are not enough. Even animals perform these biological responsibilities spontaneously to their young ones. Human beings are far superior to animals. Our actions and duties should manifest the superiority of our being over other beings. Therefore, to make a difference in the life of your children you need to go beyond all these banal, mundane and conventional chores of parental responsibility. Your children have to rise above who you are and what your are!

2. Engineer a 'homely environment': A family is responsible for engineering a 'homely environment'. There is a difference between a home and a house. 'Home' refers to the moral atmosphere of the family. It includes love, joy, peace, happiness, understanding, mutuality and the like. While 'house' refers to the physical or material structures like bricks, stones, cement, wood, iron and other material components of the family. A child's process of learning will be greatly enhanced and facilitated by a 'home environment'. In the absence of a homely environment, the child's learning will go awry. The basic traits of character are formed and developed in a homely environment. Therefore, it is a great responsibility of parents to create a homely environment which is most conducive and salubrious for growth and learning.

3. Avoid Parental conflict: Parental conflict is the greatest threat to a 'homely environment'. Parental conflict can be due to many causes. A family characterized by conflict, quarrels, altercation and bickering will never be favourable for growth and learning of children. Once the peace of the family is destroyed, everything in the family disintegrates. How can children concentrate on their studies where there is no peace? It is an impossibility. Parental conflict can sink children into a deep 'psychological mire' where they can never come out . Those who love their children don't quarrel instead they create a homely atmosphere in the family. When the family atmosphere is not peaceful, children begin to develop a negative syndrome called "oikophobia" (fear of home). This will lead children to take substitutes like drugs, alcohol, early marriage (especially in the case of girls) and the like. These are the manifestations of deep psychological abalienation and they are means of escapism from the hard realities of the family. Such children no longer receive the attention of the parents and as a result they begin to suffer from "Attention Deficit Syndrome". Such children will begin to get or draw attention from people by becoming violent, destructive and so on. Violence and destructive acts are just a CRY FOR ATTENTION AND LOVE .

4. Parents are the proto-teachers: Parents are the first teachers for children. Parents are exemplars. For children, parents are their heroes. Therefore, heroes should behave like heroes not like villains. If you act as a villain, you will cause a lot of harm to your children. The minds of children are like tabula rasa (blank slate) and whatever is written on it in their younger days will remain and may not be easily erased. Therefore, it is good to stuff their mind with positive values. You need to inspire them by your life, give them the courage to navigate through this life, instill in them the spirit to do their best, give them confidence and a sense of direction and purpose in life.

5. Recognize the interests of your children and set goals accordingly: Parents have to be observant and this will lead to the recognition of the various interests and abilities in your children. One of the sources where children's interest begins to surge is the family's table talk. If parents are doctors and they always discuss about the positive role of a doctor; children by constantly hearing about the good role of a doctor will begin to develop an interest in becoming a doctor. Children will begin to speak out, "When I grow up I will become a doctor". On the other hand if parents constantly criticize others in the family, children will begin to pick those negatives and subconsciously will begin to hate those people without any rhyme or reason. Therefore, parents must choose judiciously the topic that you constantly confabulate in the family.

6. Know your children's friends' circle: Friends are one of the most subtle and credulous enemy of every person. A bad friend can rob your child of his or her dream, character and dignity. Monitor whether your child is in the company of good friends. Remember the saying, "It is better to be alone than be in bad company". There is also another adage that says, "Eagles fly with eagles not with chickens". If your child has a friend better than himself, he can learn a lot from such a friend. But if his friend is less good than him, he will have nothing much to learn. In such case, your child has lesser chance to improve and make himself better. I would recommend to have friends as few as possible. This is because more friends entail more appointments. How can you say "No" to your friends? One of the toughest things in life is to displease a friend or to say "NO" to them.

7. Make a study room for them: It is good to make a separate study room for your children where they will be less disturbed. Once it is time for study, he or she should be found in the study room. Once study begins no friend or visitor should be entertained in the study room. It is good if parents can be with their children. Even if you cannot help them, just being with them will encourage them to study more. At least you can prevent them from distraction etc.

8. Keep in touch with the teachers and school: The teacher will be able to tell you the progress of your child in different areas of learning. Discuss and consult your child's teacher(s) - how you could improve your child in study and other areas of life. A good teacher knows a child more than their parents. Having a good rapport with teachers will be a great advantage.

9. Check their Homework: Parents must make sure that children do their homework. This is important because when a child does not do homework; he or she will not feel like going to school for fear of being chided by the teacher. It will result in truancy. If this truancy continues a stage will come when your child is no longer interested in attending the school any more. Schooling becomes a big burden. Soon he or she will become a dropped out. So, parents must make sure children do their home assignments given by the teacher(s) and school.

10. Devise a study methodology for your children: Devising a study methodology will systematize the way your child studies. Mere hard work will not lead your child to get a good result in his or her examinations if the study methodology is wrong. Therefore, first construct a daily study time-table and let him or her follow strictly.

Daily Study time-table (for high school students)
Evening study at home (6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.)
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm - Mathematics
7:00 pm - 8:00 pm - Science
8:00 pm - 8:30 pm - English
8:30 pm - 9:00 pm - Social Science

Make your children also to spend sometimes, watching BBC, CNN, NDTV, Discovery channel, or some other educative television programs and explain to them what they see on the television screen.

Morning (5:30 am to 7:30)
5:30 am - 6:30 am all the other subjects that you did not study in the previous evening.
6:30 am - 7:30 am revise all the important points of all the subjects.
This is only a tentative study time-table. You can make a time-table with the proper time that is convenient for your children. When you construct a study time-table first identify your child's weakest subject and allot more time for that particular subject and make that subject a priority.

A Few important things to be kept in mind before the child begins to study

a. First and foremost, he or she must clean his or her environment - no mobile and no other distracting objects should be found on his or her study table or within the study room.
b. The student must first tackle his or her weakest subject.
c. Follow the study time-table strictly without any alteration of the time allotted to each subject.
d. Should never change the order unnecessarily. The student must make up his or her mind to study the subject that he or she doesn't have any interest.

Dear students,

When you begin to study, you won't feel like studying the subjects which you find difficult. Your weakest subject will be the subject which you'll find the most difficult because you do not have predilection for the subject. Never break the order of your study time-table and the time allotted. Stick to the time. If it is one hour follow it through. What to do with this difficult subject say for example Mathematics? Follow the diagnostic method. Mathematics has different parts - Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry etc. Of these topics you may find some more difficult than others.

For example, if you find difficulty with Algebra; it may not be that you do not know everything. After the teacher has taught you at least you know something. Begin with this something that you know. Gradually, identify which area of algebra is difficult and work on in that area. But don't just look at the subject and say "I think, I don't know or I cannot."

Mathematics needs to be done with pen. It needs more practice than intellectual gyration. While doing a problem, sometimes you're not able to proceed because you are not sure of it; identify and mark that. In the same way mark others which you're not sure. Then, when you come to the school find time to ask your teacher personally. He will be most willing to help you if you're putting a sincere effort. So identify which part of algebra you find more difficult and begin to tackle that area.

The danger of avoiding your weak subjects: Following your daily study time-table will pay you big dividends. Follow strictly, no matter how difficult it may be. Slackening will affect your academic performance. Some students begin their study with the subject they find tough but give up very soon because it is difficult and boring. They switch on to the next and feel the same thing. Finally they choose the subject that they like e.g. say English.

Then, they begin to spend their entire study time studying only one subject (English). Their daily study time is spent only on a particular subject or very less time is given to other subjects. This result can be very disastrous to the student's academic output. When the exam result comes, the student gets very high mark in English but the marks in other subjects are very less. His or her parents are flabbergasted at the result telling themselves, "He worked so hard, this can't happen."

True, the person had worked very hard daily but his methodology was wrong and so could not pass the exam. Usually, the weak subject is the subject in which the student takes least interest.

* Fr. Stephen Touthang wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao
The writer is M.A.(English), M.A. (Sociology), M. Ed & UGC-NET and can be contacted at stevetou15(at)yahoo(dot)com
This article was posted on August 18, 2014.

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