Family-Community-Higher Education Partnership: A Critical Pillar in Realizing Social Justice

Family-Community-Higher Education Partnership: A Critical Pillar in Realizing Social Justice

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5268-1.ch008
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Despite governments and the higher learning institutions investing greatly in the search for social justice, its realization has more often than not remained elusive. Could this state of affairs be attributable to weak partnerships among the critical players, as an increasing body of evidence tends to suggest? Accordingly, collaboration between the family, community, and institutions of learning plays a big role in any student's life, particularly in academic achievement, behavior, as well as development of social competencies. Engaging families from diverse backgrounds helps in promoting the view that education is a shared responsibility, including helping the orphans and vulnerable and those with special needs to access higher education. Against this background, this chapter discusses the benefits, barriers, and prospects of family, community, and higher education partnerships as a means of enhancing social justice today. Also elucidated are a relevant theory and the roles of partners in enhancing the provision of quality education.
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The quest to offer appropriate strategies as well as visions for the creation of a more just society has always been pursued by philosophers and scholars in various fields. Beane and Apple (2007) assert that social justice is part and parcel of a democratic way of life. They hold that democratic citizens cherish a free flow of ideas, irrespective of whether they are popular or not, and believe in themselves as being capable to not only work collectively but create a better world as well. Such citizens are also known to use critical reflection to analyze social problems and policies. These sentiments are echoed by Westheimer and Kahne (2004) who observe that participatory citizens are active in both the community and local government, especially with respect to collective efforts geared towards attaining social change. Indeed, they conclude that citizens who are justice oriented value responsibility and participation.

According to Murrell (2006), social justice entails a disposition meant to recognize and eliminate all kinds of oppression as well as differential treatment regarding the practices and policies of the various institutions. And, to achieve this, participatory democracy is crucial. As per Beane and Apple (2007), responsible citizens are preoccupied with the wellbeing of others and endeavor to promote the common good, advocate for the rights and dignity of the minorities and establish institutions and value systems that promote a democratic way of life.

There is ample literature that points to the fact that strong collaboration between the family, community and learning institutions leads to students acquiring sound knowledge, attitudes as well as skills they need for life (Mogollon & Solano, 2011; Republic of Kenya, 2010; UNICEF, 2003). Proponents of such an approach stress on the need for learners to not only interact with their classmates, but their instructors, families and the community as well. This way, they reason, achievement of the learning outcomes is enhanced.

Park and Palardy (2004) established that the parents’ expectations are a predictor of parental involvement at home. Chrispeels and Gonzalez (2006) advise that the parents’ expectations for post-secondary education should not only emphasize the relevant parent programmes, but also provide explicit information to families about the universities’ admission requirements, subject choices and financial aid. Hong and Ho (2005) concur with this assertion. They also agree that the parents’ expectations are important to the students’ achievements, particularly after school. Their study indicates that a programme that repeatedly focuses on the possibility and requirements for attending university and that provides information about the route to joining the same can enhance the parents’ and the learners’ expectations. Such programmes should also be culturally sensitive (Chrispeels& Gonzalez, 2006).

Particularly, working-class families and those where the mothers work full-time tend to be less involved in their children’s education. Similarly, the parents of primary school learners tend to be more involved in their children’s education compared to the parents of the older ones. Indeed, parental involvement has been consistently shown to decrease as the children age, both by grade level and by the differences in the school’s structures (Green et al., 2007). Accordingly, developmental reasons support such decreases in parental involvement as the child moves from early to middle childhood and into adolescence. Among others, the explanation of such a scenario is that as children mature, their needs for independence and for same-age relationships increase.

Thus the age of the children can be a hindrance to the involvement of the parents, since it is widely acknowledged that parental involvement decreases as the children grow older, and is at its lowest level for children of secondary school age and beyond (Hornby & Lafaele, 2011). The tendency, the researchers assert, for parental involvement to be greater for parents of younger children may be partly because younger children are more positive about their parents going into school. Unfortunately the parents, and sometimes the teachers can assume that older children do not want their parents to be involved in their education, which can act as a barrier to effective parental involvement.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Teacher: It refers to a person who helps others to learn. In this context, it is used to refer to a person who facilitates learning, including the higher education institutions.

Family: It refers to the people that most immediately and directly influence a child’s development. This includes parents, siblings, guardian and peers. Others are uncles, aunts and grandparents. In other words, these are all the significant people with whom the child has a direct, face-to-face relationship.

School: It means an institution where formal learning or education is conducted. In the context of this paper, it is used to refer to both basic as well as higher institutions of learning.

Partnership: It refers to at least two or more groups of people working together in a shared and mutually beneficial arrangement. Thus, such a relationship is directed at realizing a common goal. In this context, it refers to families, communities, individuals, groups of people or organizations working as partners with the institutions of higher learning to enhance academic achievement and good behaviour among students.

Higher Education: This is used to mean the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes that students in the post- secondary institutions are expected to acquire and exhibit. The staff in a higher education institution includes the faculty, liaison officers, support staff, counselors, principals, cafeteria as well as custodial staff.

Community: This refers to such groups as businesses or corporations, service agencies, sports clubs as well as cultural and civic organizations that have interest in the provision of sound education to learners. It also includes the municipality as well as philanthropists.

Social Justice: It refers to embracing strategies as well as visions that are meant to enhance full and equal participation of all groups in the society so as to meet their varied needs. In the context of this paper, it involves creating a partnership geared towards providing meaningful education to students, particularly those in the higher institutions of learning. To attain this goal, such partnerships should ensure that all forms of discrimination are avoided, including inequitable socio-economic arrangements, in the delivery of educational services to learners.

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