Scottish parents among ‘friendliest in the world’

Students are happier when their parents are more socially connected in school, international study suggests

Olamide Taiwo

Parental engagement: Scottish parents are among the friendliest in the world, according to new research

Scottish parents of teenagers are among the friendliest in the world, according to a study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

New analysis of Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) data shows that Scottish parents were ranked joint third (along with Ireland) when it came to how many acquaintances they had at their child’s school. Only parents in Georgia and Spain were friendlier.

Parents of 15-year-olds were asked how many of their child’s school friends, and how many of their child’s school friends’ parents, they knew.

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The study, of 18 areas around the world, reveals that parents in Scotland knew six of their children’s friends on average – and also knew 4.8 of their child’s friends’ parents on average.

In contrast, in Hong Kong parents knew only 3.4 of their child’s friends and 1.9 of their child’s friends’ parents.

The analysis of the 2015 data was published by Pisa as a "focus paper", entitled "Do parents of 15-year-olds know many of their child’s school friends and their parents?"

Improving parental engagement

Study author Alfonso Echazarra said that when parents were socially connected with other families at school, students were happier.

“In schools where parents know their children’s friends and their families, students are more likely to develop their skills, improve their attitudes towards collaboration, and feel happier and safer at school,” the report states.

Parents may get to know each other at school-related activities, the report shows.

In the school systems where parents of 15-year-olds knew the largest number of their child’s friends and parents of their friends, eight out of 10 parents had attended a scheduled meeting or conference for parents during the previous academic year.

In the countries where parents knew the smallest number, however, fewer than seven out of 10 had attended such events, with just 3 out of 10 parents attending such meetings in Hong Kong.

The researchers also found that the number of acquaintances that the parent knew was influenced by whether the school was socioeconomically advantaged or not.

In general, parents whose children were in a relatively advantaged school knew more of their child’s friends.

In Hong Kong, where parents have the fewest acquaintances, parents in advantaged schools knew, on average, 1.7 more of their child’s friends than those in disadvantaged schools.

But in a handful of countries, parents of children in disadvantaged areas were more likely to know their child’s friends – or their childs' friends’ parents – than those in advantaged areas.

In Mexico, for example, parents of children in disadvantaged areas knew nearly three more parents of their child’s friends, on average, than parents in advantaged schools.

Previous research has found that parents of children who go to a disadvantaged school may not have the time to attend meetings and conferences due to them working “unsociable hours”.

The findings of this study suggest that schools should offer more school-related activities for students’ families.

“They can organise parties and conferences for their students’ families, creating opportunities for parents to get involved in school activities and setting informal norms for student behaviour,” the report states.

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Olamide Taiwo

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