Background

Ten years ago, Director of EKidz, Mr Showkat Ahmed started a playschool with just 4 students. Today he manages a school till 10th grade that caters to around 500 students and 25 teachers with support from his school principal, Ms Nishat Ahmed. EKidz is a budget private school located in a small residential area of Old City Hyderabad. Mr Showkat is an Alumni of ISLI Fellowship Programme and his wife, Ms Nishat is a current ISLI fellow.

Challenge faced by the School Leader

Similar to most budget private schools in the Old City, the majority of students at EKidz are first-generation learners. As a result, parent involvement in their child’s education was a major challenge for the School Leader. Most parents were unaware of how to support their child. Some would shy away from coming to Parent-Teacher Meetings (PTMs) while others would not visit the school in the fear of unfamiliarity of conversation with teachers and principal about their child's performance.

Having grown up in the same community, Mr Showkat understood parents' context and mindset. However, he always considered parents as an integral part of the school’s development. Since the beginning, Mr Showkat made efforts to build a strong relationship with all the parents. He says, "I would stand in front of the school gate every day as parents came to drop their children. I would make sure to talk to them and even remind them about upcoming PTMs." Even today, one can find Mr Showkat standing at the front gate every morning, receiving students and interacting with parents. “With a strength of 500 students today, I still know the details of parents of most students in my school… their occupation, address and how much they are involved with the school…"

Intervention by the ISLI Programme Manager and steps taken by the School Leader

After attending ISLI's workshop on parent engagement two years ago, Mr Showkat started thinking of specific structures that would involve parents in school activities. Upon consulting with the ISLI Programme Manager Rahul Raina, he first identified ways to improve the existing PTM structure. Instead of having a generic PTM, he started conducting class-wise PTMs in which parents are encouraged to meet the class teacher to discuss challenges about their child, and even come up with action steps to support their child.

In his second year of the fellowship, Mr Showkat introduced various events for the parents throughout the year, to increase parents' interaction with the school. Several events such as Mother’s Day, Grandparents Day, etc. were organised to welcome the parents to the school, enjoy and interact with teachers, management, and students. A lot of activities and competitions were organised and prizes were given to encourage parents’ participation. This has helped in the overall relationship building between not just parents and teachers but also parents and students.

Photo(left to right): Grandparents Day Celebrations at EKidz, School Leader - Mr Showkat Ahmed

With the Programme Manager’s support, Mr Showkat also started a parent orientation programme which the school has been conducting regularly ever since. At the orientation, parents are made aware of the performance of students, student activities and events, and parent engagement activities conducted during the academic year. The school informs parents about expectations especially in the context of participation and their involvement in their child’s learning. These expectations are then followed up throughout the academic year through circulars, display of announcements on bulletin board and updates through SMS portal.

Mr Showkat was also very keen on involving parents with the school's goals. During the fellowship, he worked on the spoken English skills of students. As part of the project showcase, a Show-and-Tell activity was conducted in school for which parents were invited. Students spoke in English in front of their parents. This practice has been continued each year.

The School Leader’s efforts to improve parent engagement continued as he enrolled in the ISLI Alumni Programme. Rohit Thapa, Sr. Alumni Manager, discussed various ideas with the School Leader for further involvement of parents in the school’s activities. After some reflection, they came up with an idea of setting up a parent feedback wall - a platform for parents to express their opinions and provide suggestions on areas of improvement.  At the end of every event or a meeting, parents are encouraged to share feedback via feedback wall. All the points from the feedback wall are read carefully and relevant suggestions are considered and implemented. "Parents feel happy when they see their suggestions being taken into account,'' said the School Leader.

Photo (clockwise from top left): Parents sharing suggestions, Display on bulletin board, Parent Feedback Wall  

Impact on parents

Through regular events and parent-engagement activities, the School Leaders could see that parents have started taking more interest in their child's learning. They have also developed a strong relationship with the teachers. Parents willingly come forward to discuss with the teachers about how their child is performing, and what more they can do at home to support the child.

As a result of implementing these strategies, several parents, who never used to show up to PTMs ten years ago, have started coming regularly to all school events and meetings. Parent attendance is regularly tracked by all class teachers. More than 90% of parents attend each meeting and event. The School Leader mentions, "Most parents now eagerly wait for PTMs every second Saturday. If for any reason we don't organise one, they start calling and asking when is the next meeting".

Photo (clockwise from top left): Welcoming Parents to PTM, Agenda for parent engagement activity, parent activity, Display of shout out to Parents during PTM      

EKidz success at engaging parents is visible through the attendance numbers and sheer eagerness of parents to attend events at the school. Last year, the school held its annual day function at Gandhi Bhawan auditorium. The huge auditorium, with a capacity of more than 500 was full of parents cheering as their children performed on stage.

Conclusion

Mr Showkat and Ms Nishat believe that the key to parent engagement is building a strong personal relationship with parents. They make sure to take out time for parents and have informal chats with them. Ms Nishat is now in her second year of ISLI fellowship and has started coming to the forefront to interact and build a relationship with parents.

As part of the future plan for parent engagement, the school leaders wish to continue the structures they have set up, with focus on involving parents in the goals/projects at the school. As an additional step, they also plan to organise a coffee chat where parents can come and discuss their child's progress over a cup of coffee, and even sit in the classroom to observe the teaching and learning process. Ms Nishat mentioned that "Many parents ask us how their child is doing in the class, and how does a teacher focus on their child. This practice will help them get a clear picture, and connect more with the teachers".

- Written by Soeleen Kaur, ISLI Programme Manager, Hyderabad


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