Three individuals interact with a laptop. Image by Monstera Production, Pexels.
BY: Phemelo Mabuse
Did you know that approximately 86% of parents believe that technology plays a crucial role in their child’s education? In this increasingly digital world, parental and caregiver involvement in EdTech has become essential for a child's learning. This involvement, which includes activities such as reading and writing with the child, providing emotional support, and assisting with extra-curricular activities, is pivotal to improving their educational outcomes.
We can’t speak about the prevalence of EdTech without touching on a crucial time in recent history when COVID-19 played a major role in education where parents and caregivers had an additional role of becoming teachers in their homes. On average, learners lost almost three-quarters of schooling between 2020 and 2021 when schools were either partially or completely closed, resulting in declining learning outcomes. During this time, parents had to come up with creative ways to ensure that their children’s education did not stall. Parents had to find ways of accessing online learning content while familiarising themselves with the new learning structure and finding ways to better support their children.
This is just one of the many ways in which parents and caregivers have become increasingly involved in their child’s learning through EdTech solutions. While it may feel like additional work for already busy parents, research has shown that there are many ways in which children benefit from parents' and caregivers' equal engagement with EdTech solutions; these benefits include a boost in academic performance as a study conducted by the National Education Association in 2019 reported that students with parents who are involved in their education have a passing rate of 70%.
There is a growing need for parental involvement in using EdTech products. However, we must acknowledge that many barriers and obstacles still exist, especially for low-income and rural households. Some African countries still struggle with unreliable internet connectivity, electricity blackouts, and the inability to afford mobile data. In fact, Injini's African EdTech Insights Report Volume 1 highlights that only 1.7% of South Africans living in rural areas have access to the internet in their homes.
I believe that the digital divide continues to be a reality for many people across the continent and has been further exacerbated by the increase in remote learning resulting in parents and students being unable to efficiently access learning materials.
The question is, how can parents and caregivers be more involved in EdTech and their children’s e-learning journey?
UNESCO provides a great starting point for parents and caregivers in communities to be more digitally involved - this will translate into their involvement in their children’s e-learning. There needs to be EdTech solutions that can provide the following;
Digital literacy training for parents
Some parents and caregivers were and still are hesitant about incorporating technology into their children’s education as they believe that distractions often occur in terms of engaging with social media and having educational content on their mobile phones. However, there is a strong realisation that EdTech is here to stay; therefore, there is a need to train parents to fully utilise EdTech products and solutions. This training can be through specialised programmes and/or workshop sessions at local libraries and schools where parents can engage with their children’s learning content, and participate in online discussions with other parents; in-app content where parents can conveniently use their mobile devices to engage with learning content and being able to access this content offline without too much data usage. These channels can assist parents to be more involved in the school content and contribute to their child’s learning outcomes.
Parents and caregivers need to receive as much information as possible from their children’s schools due to the need for frequent communication among teachers and parents to be kept in the loop. Parents can participate via digital platforms such as WhatsApp groups, and access e-newsletters online and offline which will be administered by the school where regular updates of learners and their academic activities can be discussed. These spaces will offer a platform for parents to understand teachers’ assessment of learners, and voice concerns regarding their children - this will open up transparency between parents and learners, in collaboration with teachers, to identify areas of development and growth. On the other hand, teachers can communicate information such as reminders of assignments via SMSs, tests, quizzes, and other related topics that parents can see to remind their children of these events.
Providing feedback cycles and reminding parents
Feedback is a two-way process where someone who provides feedback can also receive feedback. In this case, consistent feedback from parents to teachers is a great way to communicate all aspects that can contribute to the student’s development. This can take place via instant messaging through one-on-one, group chats, and in-app features that parents can utilise through their child’s EdTech platform.
With that being said, by being actively involved and engaged in their children's education, parents and caregivers can become key players and influencers in the EdTech industry. They can have a greater impact on their children's education and contribute to their overall development.
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