What we know

Engaging parents in their children’s education improves the children’s educational attainment and ongoing engagement in education.

A family’s level of ‘social capital’ and socio-economic position affects how they engage with their children’s school.

Risk factors associated with poor parental engagement include:

  •  family problems such as poverty, poor parental education, unemployment and poor job prospects
  •  parental problems such as poor physical health, substance misuse or family violence
  •  community and socio-economic problems such as racial prejudice, poor housing or study facilities at home, and fewer models of educational success in a formal school environment.

The values fostered by schools are not always consistent with the values that are important to Indigenous children, their parents and their communities.

These risk factors are present in many Indigenous families and communities, so Indigenous parents need more resources to overcome barriers to engaging with their children’s education.

What works

Examples of programs that directly or indirectly support Indigenous parents’ involvement in their children’s education include: Aboriginal Parental Engagement Program, FASTTM, the Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youngsters, Indigenous Parent Factor, Let’s Start, Play and Learn, and Parents/Families as First Teachers, Parents and Learning, Reading Discovery, and the Yachad Accelerated Learning Project.

Successful programs tend to include the following principles in their design:

  • they create a school environment that is culturally welcoming and inviting for Indigenous parents
  • they empower parents to support their children’s learning
  • they actively include parents in the children’s programs
  • they provide opportunities for parents to meet with and support each other
  • they involve the community and coordinate with relevant partner agencies.

What doesn’t work

In the literature reviewed for this paper, no evaluations of programs designed to improve parental engagement were found to be ineffective.

What we don’t know

There are few evaluations of programs that have been designed specifically to enhance Indigenous parents’ engagement in their children’s education.

Many evaluations point only to short-term outcomes, therefore it is not known whether improving parental engagement leads to sustained improvements in educational outcomes for children and young people.