New Zealand parents want their children to be taught life skills as part of their education; however, cultural influences, location and income all play a role in parental expectations of children’s academic success, reveals a new study from ASG and Monash University.

Released today, the ASG Parents Report Card is the only report of its kind to investigate the state of education in New Zealand from parents’ perspectives.

Undertaken by Associate Professor Sivanes Phillipson and Associate Professor Shane N. Phillipson at the Faculty of Education at Monash University, the report reveals that parents want teachers to do more when it comes to teaching their child about social and life skills inside the classroom.

“Historically, social and life skills are taught within the home and the development of skills and knowledge needed for a successful career have been taught in school. However, perceptions about what equals academic success is changing and so, for today’s parents social and life skills are becoming an increasingly important element in education,” says John Velegrinis, CEO, ASG.

“The report confirms that parents want teachers to play a greater role developing their children’s life skills. However, there was a strong but divided stance on discussing topical issues, such as sexuality and cyber safety, with the level of input depending on the cultural background and age of the child,” adds Velegrinis.

According to the ASG Parents Report Card, 66 per cent of parents believe schools should do more to teach their child about social skills. When ethnicity is factored in, the proportion increases substantially to 91 per cent among Indian and other Asian parents.

Furthermore, 52 per cent of parents agree they would like their child’s school to do more about teaching them how to behave in public, which increases to 88 per cent among Indian and other Asian parents. “The findings suggest there are increasingly blurred lines as to where responsibility begins and ends as parents’ perceptions of their traditional roles and responsibilities change,” continues Velegrinis.

The analysis revealed that parents have strong views on how the school environment keeps pace with topical issues, such as sexuality and cyber safety.

Less than a third (32 per cent) of New Zealand parents believe that sexual education is best learnt at school versus 58 per cent of Indian and other Asian parents. Furthermore, 69 per cent of New Zealand parents agree they can openly talk about sex at home, but this falls to 45 per cent for Indian and other Asian parents.

“While the topic of sex education may be culturally dependant, parents, teachers and schools must have ongoing discussions about the role of sexuality and sex education to best determine how much of it is part of the curriculum, and what needs to be done at home. This is important to make sure no child misses out on this essential developmental opportunity,” says Associate Professor Shane Phillipson, Faculty of Education, Monash University.

The ASG Parents Report Card found that parents of older children would like schools to be more involved in teaching their child about cyber safety. Fifty four per cent of all parents would like teachers to do more to protect their child from cyber predators, and this percentage increases for parents with children in secondary school.

“The growing use of technology, including phones and tablets, at home and at school, can leave children vulnerable to the dark side of the online world. It’s important for parents to openly discuss and advise their children how to use these platforms wisely,” adds Dr Phillipson. The report also reveals how parents’ education and income levels shape their perceptions of academic success.

Seventy-nine per cent of parents who are university educated believe a degree will help their child achieve their ambitions, in contrast to 59 per cent of parents who are vocationally trained.

“Parents with a degree have a first-hand experience of the opportunities that exist post-university, and perhaps see greater value and a return on investment in tertiary education. So it doesn’t surprise us that income levels also contribute to parents having higher aspirations, with 81 of parents who earn in excess of $96,000 per year believing that a degree will help their child achieve their ambitions. This drops to 76 per cent of parents who earn between $60,000 and $96,000,” continues Dr Phillipson.

Interesting comparisons are also drawn between New Zealand and Australian parents.

While more Australian parents have higher aspirations for their children’s academic success, more New Zealand parents believe their children have clearer learning goals than parents of Australian children. Australians parents believe their daughters are more motivated to succeed than their sons, despite setting higher standards for their sons’ academic achievement. Whereas New Zealand parents perceive their sons and daughters as being equally as capable to achieve and succeed, with girls having a slight edge when it comes to their ability to remain focused on their studies.

Both Australian and New Zealand parents expressed concerns that the curriculum did not meet their children’s current or future needs, in areas such as social and life skills, and that teachers were being overwhelmed with classroom management issues.

Furthermore, parents from both sides of the Tasman Sea did not fully understand the purpose of homework in their child’s learning.

“Schools must do more to explain to parents what their child is doing and how this is linked to their child’s success. But clearly, Australians can learn much from their New Zealand counterparts as to why parent-school partnerships seem to be more successful in New Zealand than in Australia. The differences could be attributed to the advantages afforded by one national school system in New Zealand compared with many [state-based] education systems in Australia,” concludes Dr Phillipson.


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