Failure to understand Bangladeshi parents

26th September 2003 at 01:00
Teachers mistakenly believe Bangladeshi adults are not interested in their children's education because they do not come to parents' evenings and concerts.

Reasons for many Bangladeshi parents' lack of involvement include poor English, long working hours and racism. Yet parents trust teachers to let them know if children have problems, according to research at Sunderland university.

Meanwhile, both school and parents may be being duped, by pupils filtering reports and other information sent between home and school.

Researchers interviewed 33 mothers and 28 fathers of children in a close-knit Bangladeshi community in the North-east. Fathers worked long hours, mainly in restaurants. They usually took children to and from school. Mothers did not work and generally did not go out unless with a man of the family.

Some mothers took children to school, but lacked confidence to talk to staff because of their poor English. Schools were also associated with racism: children reported continuous verbal and physical abuse in school and outside.

But parents interviewed were keen to see children do well and - aware of their own lack of education - said they trusted teachers. Schools saw the lack of participation as "problematic" but in many cases, pupils were not informing parents of meetings, or passing on letters or school reports.

Professor Gill Crozier said: "The schools do not consider participation from the perspective ... of Bengali parents. There is an obliviousness to the class, ethnic and gender inequalities.

"Bengali parents regard the school phoning them about their children's absence or whatever as evidence of them caring. There is a sense in which parents are aware that they have no choice but to rely on the teachers."

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