The text below is a summary of the research evidence on the impact of parental engagement on the educational attainment of school pupils in sub-Saharan Africa. It is an analysis of individual studies of parental engagement in sub-Saharan Africa. The information here is valuable for African school leaders, administrators and policy makers. It is even more valuable for parents who maybe thinking of better ways to improve on the educational attainment of their children.
Effective Basic Services (eBASE) Africa developed this summary using available research evidence while also taking into consideration prominent themes arising from key informant interviews (KII) and focus group discussions (FGD), particularly FGD with teachers and students. This implies the presence and participation of all key stakeholders; the policy makers, the implementers or enforcers of policy and the beneficiaries. The research evidence in this summary is acquired from a detailed and replicable search protocol used on a wide range – listed below – of research databases for related studies in low- and middle-income countries in general and sub-Saharan Africa in particular.
Definition of Strand
The parental engagement strand measures the degree or extent to which parental engagement interventions affect educational progress, based on a synthesis of numerous quantitative studies from around the world.
Parental engagement refers to the involvement of parents or guardians in supporting their children’s academic learning. It encompasses approaches, which develop parental skills such as literacy, general approaches that encourage the involvement of parents in their children’s learning activities and more intensive programmes for families in crisis (Higgins, et al., 2016).
The next few pages provide an analysis of individual studies of parental engagement interventions in sub-Saharan Africa. The information here is valuable for African school leaders, administrators and policy makers. It is even more valuable for parents who maybe thinking of better ways to improve on the educational attainment of their children.
Summary of the research in sub-Saharan Africa
Within the African context, particularly sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), the extended family system remains an important social institution and parenting or child upbringing is likely to be considered a shared responsibility. According to a Mende adage: ‘A child is not for one person’ (Bledsoe, 1990). Parental or guardian engagement in this setting therefore involves family associations – beyond the individual parents -, which have an involvement in decisions about children’s schooling patterns (Lloyd & Blanc, 1996).
Most research evidence on parental engagement in children’s education emanate from studies conducted in the developed world. The majority of studies on parental engagement in children’s education in SSA have been conducted in South Africa, although in recent times further studies have been undertaken in East and West African countries (Loomis & Akkari, 2012). In SSA, there is limited evidence and findings from studies on the impact of parental engagement on children’s academic learning reach mixed conclusions. For example, a multivariate analysis of the role of fathers, mothers and others on children’s schooling in SSA, Lloyd & Blanc, (1996) establishes that academically best off children are those whose parents and relatives (including siblings) have the means to shelter and provide them with support necessary for academic success. This however is an associative and not a causal relationship.
A study conducted in Togo established that parents who engaged, persevered and performed in adult literacy programs provided motivation to their children’s own education, encouraging them to learn in order to perform better in schools. Parents who were committed to learning and staying in school were found to have a positive impact on their children’s motivation to persevere. In essence, there is a positive relationship between parents’ engagement in adult literacy classes and children’s school performance and retention (Amenyah, 2012).
A study of parental engagement in Ghana found that when parents ‘talked to children about what they learn in school’ it was ‘significantly and positively associated with academic performance’ (Chowa, Ansong, & Osei-Akoto, 2012). The study also suggests that involvement that is more parental was significantly associated with better maths performance that students of parents who interact with teachers and school councillors perform worse in math than the children of those who do not. However, it is likely that parents may have engaged with the school over concerns about their child’s poor academic performance. In kenya, Nyabuto & Philomena, (2014) and Mwirichia, ( 2013) explain conclude that a majority of learners who were followed up and assisted by their parents with their homework had their math scores significantly improved compared to their counterparts whose parents did not.
Other studies suggest that children’s academic performance and social outcomes is enhanced by a quality relationship between parents and educators. (Loomis & Akkari, 2012; Dekker & Lemmer, 1993).
Notwithstanding the mixed results, within the context of a pandemic like COVID-19, the availability of child-oriented books at home and parental engagement can be an important driver of learning in developing countries, particularly in the most disadvantaged areas with limited to no access to technology (Brossard, et al., 2020).
Generally, there is still a paucity of research evidence regarding the impact of parental engagement on educational outcomes in SSA. Some existing studies differentiate between parental involvement (parents’ participating in their children’s educational processes either at home or school e.g., reading to their children) from parental participation (such as interactions with pupils, teachers and others to support the school). The impact of parental engagement interventions vary according to the interventions type and specific country characteristics. Nevertheless, the few studies conducted show that there are general associative positive effects of parental engagement on children’s learning outcomes. More studies are needed to establish the viability of specific interventions in the SSA context and the robustness of the causal relationship between the interventions and educational outcomes.
Impact, Security, and Cost of Local Evidence
The available evidence suggest positive association between parental engagement and educational outcomes. The evidence however, is very limited and studies that are more robust are recommended across the continent.
The cost associated with the implementation of parental engagement is likely to be moderate.
Engagement, parental engagement, parental involvement, parental participation, parent participation, children’s education, Educational outcomes.
3ie Evidence Portal
EBSCO (BEL, Education Abstract, Education Administration Abstract)
Taylor and Francis (Education Research Abstract)
Amenyah, E. I. (2012). Parents’ Engagement in Adult Literacy and its Impact on their Children’s Schooling. Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, 82.
Bledsoe, C. (1990). ‘No Success Without Struggle’: Social Mobility and Hardship for Foster Children in Sierra. Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland.
Brossard, M., Cardoso, M., Kamei, A., Mishra, S., Mizunoya, S., & Reuge, N. (2020). Parental Engagement in Children’s Learning. unicef.
Chowa, G., Ansong, D., & Osei-Akoto, I. (2012). Parental Involvement and Academic Performance in Ghana. YOUTHSAVE.
Lloyd, C. B., & Blanc, A. (1996). Children’s Schooling in sub-Saharan Africa: The Role of Fathers, Mothers, and Others. Population Council.
Loomis, C., & Akkari, A. (2012). From the Will to the Field: Parent Participation in Early Childhood Education in Madagascar. Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa.
MWIRICHIA, V. M. (2013). INFLUENCE OF PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT ON ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE OF PRESCHOOL CHILDREN IN KANGETA DIVISION, MERU COUNTY, KENYA.
Nyabuto, A. N., & Philomena, N. M. (2014). Parental Involvement on Pupils’ Performance in Mathematics in Public Primary Schools in Kenya. Journal of Educational and Social Research.
Oketch, M., Maurice, M., & Jackline, S. (2012). Parent al aspirations for their children’s educational attainment and the realisation of universal primary education (UPE) in Kenya:Evidence from slum and non-slum residences. International Journal of Educational Development.