The Role of Parents and Schools in Developing Essential 21st Century skills

Dr. Maria Montessori believed that "education must start at birth" as each child has an absorbent mind, that is, a mind that can literally soak up details from all that he or she encounters. Montessori concentrated on the extraordinary importance of the child's first six years as the foundation for all future learning. She wrote, "The more fully the needs of one period are met, the greater will be the success of the next." This premise automatically places parents as their child's first and most important teachers. 

As a Montessorian for the past 40 years, I truly believe that childhood experiences lay the foundation of children's habits and attitudes which shape their future success. We all know that "parents are the first teachers in the life of a child." The role of parents is of utmost importance and we can achieve the children's potential and development of the "whole child" only with the help of parental involvement. "Parental involvement" can be defined as the participation of parents in every facet of children's education and development from birth to adulthood, recognizing that parents are the primary influence in children's lives.  

What can Parents do?

  • Studies show that the most crucial years of learning take place before the child is old enough to enter school. Researchers say that no amount of formal education can compare to the influence of parents who teach every day by their words and actions. Parents must realize they have the primary responsibility for their child’s education. Education begins with family.
  • Convey positive attitudes towards the school. Respect for school faculty and staff must be taught in the home.
  • Encourage your children to use their minds. Help them to apply what they learn in school to real life situations. This will help them to realize that what they learn in school and out of school are tied together.
  • Be sure your child has a quiet place where he or she can study in private, away from other family members, radio, television, etc.
  • Read to your children, beginning when they are small. Good reading is essential, even in this age of computerized education. When they are old enough to read by themselves, have them read to you or take turns reading to each other. This is a good way to be sure your children are reading their textbooks, and understanding what they are reading. Take the time to review the books your children are using in school. If you know what they are studying, you will be better prepared to help them and evaluate their progress.
  • Ask your child to describe what they did that day in a specific subject area. Use open-ended questions. Remember, by simply asking them what they did that day usually generates a “nothing” response.
  • Don’t emphasize the grade the student earns. Instead, emphasize what they have learned in that area and how you can help them learn even more.
  • Attend parent-teacher conferences. Be prepared with your own questions and concerns and also be prepared to listen to what the teacher has to say.
  • As responsible citizens, parents should make an effort to learn more about educational issues and exercise their rights to voice their opinions.

What can Schools do to support the role of Parents?

  • The school must encourage parent involvement and develop policies that would support parents as partners and advocates. Remind parents and teachers that they are allies in the quest for their child’s education. Teachers and the school staff must have access to training on how to work with parents effectively. Bring together parents and school officials in an informal atmosphere such as art/science exhibits, or an informal coffee/tea hour discussion.
  • Work constructively with the PTA and the school, with respect for democratic procedures and diversity of opinion. Increase opportunities for the development of parenting skills and take advantage of the information offered by the PTA, school and the community.
  • Involve students, requesting input where there are programs that directly involve them.
  • Assure access to an equitable and quality education for all children.

It is my firm belief that parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness. Good parenting is vital to develop a child's social adjustment outside the home.

Indeed, warm and responsive parenting has been linked to children's positive social behavior. 

To help our children learn appropriate social skills, we must carefully observe each child's individual personality, strengths and weaknesses. We have to customize our approach to discipline and positive guidance, all the while showing respect, love and support.

Children are continuously observing in their home environment, and learn to understand and express emotions from their parents. Therefore, parents become “Emotional Role Models”. The children learn how to respond to others emotions by the way we respond to them. Parents are the primary teachers of moral and ethical values. These values and attitudes help develop our child’s moral compass, and act as a guiding force to make wise choices. The goal of education is to prepare children for life so they can meet the challenges of the 21st century confidently and successfully. 

*The author, Mrs. Lalita Trehan, is a renowned Montessorian from the United States, is Chairperson of American Montessori Public School (Gurgaon, India). She has been an educator for over 40 years and during this time has served many roles. She has a B.Sc. in Home Economics from Lady Irwin College, New Delhi. In 1978, she received her pre-primary Montessori Certification from Chicago and in 1989 lower and Upper Elementary certification from Houston, Texas. In 1993, she became teacher trainer at Houston Montessori Centre. Mrs. Trehan is also the Founder of First Step Montessori School (Panchkula, 1983) and Founder Director of American Montessori School (U.S.A., 1986), Sugar Creek Montessori School (Stafford, U.S.A., 1994), Cambridge Montessori School (U.S.A., 1997) and Sugar Creek Montessori School (Katy, U.S.A., 2007). As testament to her expertise in 1999, Mr. Untermeyer, Chief of Staff under President George Bush Sr. and Chairman of Texas State Board of Education, personally requested Mrs. Trehan to serve as trustee on the board of the Texas Centre for Educational Research (T.C.E.R).

Interview: Dr. Nidhi Trehan, Vice Chairperson of American Montessori Public School in Gurgaon