URGENT calls were made by youth parliamentarians on Monday for greater parent involvement in the education system to boost academic performance of students and lessen their chances of engaging in criminal activities.
"I often wonder if there is an artificial wall between our parents and our education system. Low parental involvement has resulted in an insurmountable number of social ills plaguing the nation's children. These include, but are not limited to, poor academic performance, depression, low self-esteem, among others such as the unfortunate incidents of students becoming susceptible to criminal behaviours," said youth parliamentarian for Westmoreland Western Jevaughn Malcolm in Gordon House on Monday.
Malcolm pointed to 2020 crime statistics announced by National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang last year, which state 16 per cent of murder victims were between the ages of 15 and 24.
"Inner-city youth are victims of low parental education, parental support, particularly in education; consequently, 56 per cent of our children within these areas drop out of schools. These vulnerable youth are being groomed to take up leadership positions in gangs in our community," he said.
Malcolm called for a macro approach to be used in the education system which would include more involvement of parents in parent/teacher meetings.
"The current approach does not give parents a one-on-one experience with teachers. This is suggesting that the purpose of these meeting is in fact being defeated. The perspective I am recommending is one that would reduce the concentration of a general assembly to classroom meeting, not as a substitute but as an addition to what already exists," he explained.
He said that approach would provide better engagement, enabling parents to meet with teachers at least three times per school term and allow them to ask direct questions about performance and progress of their children.
Malcolm also proposed an accountability drive, called 'Digi up, gi dem an update', to track the performance of parents as they assist their children with homework and other school-related activities.
"This drive will have a digital user-friendly platform and allow parents to scan a barcode and register for specific subjects already offered in our education system. This 'Digi up' will equip our parents with the skills and tools to help their children and themselves in advance," he said.
Meanwhile, youth parliamentarian for St Ann South Western Breannah Edwards proposed a 'READ' policy which would focus on resources, education, advocacy and delivery.
"Parents don't always have the resources to invest in their children and should be provided with the stationery items and learning tools that will create a learning environment in the home. This will take a unified approach and so this Government calls for a further public-private partnership between the Government of Jamaica and the private sector to narrow the gap and provide these essential tools that are fundamental in children's academic development," she said.
"As it relates to education, parents sometimes fail to grasp the link between early childhood experience and positive outcomes in later life, therefore this House is proposing the launch of a public education campaign to heighten parent awareness and one that will seek to offer parent recommendations on how they can get involved and the increased benefits of involvement," she added.
Pointing to advocacy and delivery from her proposal, Edwards called for greater attention from groups such as the National Parent-Teacher Association to recognise disconnection and needs among parents.