Understanding parents’ perceptions of education : parental involvement and home-school interaction in two South African communities
The purpose of this thesis was to gain a deeper understanding of parents’ perceptions of education in South Africa, and the connection that can be made between these perceptions and their involvement and interaction with the school. Seeking to contribute to the current literature on parental involvement and home-school interaction, this thesis questions the agenda, values and underlying beliefs that parents associate with the concept of education, as well as those prioritised by the national education system. Conceptualised in terms of the Home and School sphere, the explicit and implicit agendas and values of the home and school are discussed in relation to the parents’ and school’s role and responsibility towards their children’s education. Fieldwork for this study was carried out in two socio-economically defined communities in the Western Cape Province of South Africa, where qualitative research interviews were conducted with parents, school representatives and community workers. The economic agenda of schooling, in terms of preparing children for future employment and economic success, was found to be central in both communities. While education for employment was seen to be a common theme, the aim of equipping the community’s children through the school was also seen to be a social and culturally loaded experience. A relative continuity and cultural integration between the School and Home sphere in the middle income community, is argued to have put children in an advantaged position, here the ‘cultural code’ or cultural capital necessary to navigate the education system is reinforced and initiated in the home environment. In the low income community however, a difference in home language (i.e. other than English) as well as epistemological and cultural background contributed to a relative dislocation between parents and the school, and consequently also affected their perception and attitude towards involvement in the school sphere. Experiences shared by research participants in both communities suggest that formal education is perceived as holding significant symbolic value and power in society, influencing the individual parent’s perceived ability, authority and sense of entitlement when interacting with the school.