Team McCallum

R&D for Lifetime of Life

Parents v kids’ grades.

Prof Gianni de Fraja’s work on the role of parents, schools and kids’ academic success has received widespread coverage in the media, with different sources selecting vastly different spins to put on the research.

To understand it clearly, you need to know that the team tested a model of the parent-child-school interaction as something called a Nash equilibrium. Many important real-life situations are analysed this way.

Simplifying greatly, a Nash equilibrium assumes that each party knows the strategy of the others, and with this knowledge in mind puts in place a strategy to get the best for himself/herself. It does not guarantee the best for the players as a whole. It is more like “if you are going to do that, then I going to do this, because that’s best for me in this situation”.

The team compared the effort put in by each of the three parties and looked at the impact the had on the school exams they passed, at standard UK levels (GCE and A level).

They found that, if the difference made by a child exerting more effort alone (with no change from the other two) was counted as 1, then the school (acting alone) was more important at a score of 1.5. However, by far and away, it was the parents who put in effort that made the biggest difference, at a whopping 6 times more than the kids alone.

Part of this impact was directly on the child, through activities such as reading to the child and helping them with their homework. Part of this impact was on the school, by getting involved in things like parents evenings and influencing school policies to getter better teaching.

Middle class parents were much more likely to get involved in this manner than lower class parents. The media angles on this are pure speculation either on their own part or based on the comments of members of the research team, but it was made clear the research team does not have a solid explanation for this. For example, it may be that the lower class are less educated themselves and so less able to carry out those activities that make a difference.

Remember, the basic premise in a Nash equilibrium is that each party is trying to do what is best for them, given the way the others are doing things.

So while schools should be trying to make an effort, as it is more important than just encouraging the kid to try hard, the best route is for parents to get involved a lot, with both the child’s schoolwork and with the school. It’s the parents who have the most influence.

If you want your kid to get good grades, get involved!

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October 29, 2010 - Posted by | Learning, News, Relationships, Success, UK

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