Recent statistics confirm that Latinos have become the “largest non-dominant group” in the United States of America, with a population of nearly 38.8 million people (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2002). However, in spite of increasing in demographic numbers, Latinos are substantially lagging in the area of academics and education which is the reason why most Latinos are primarily poor and one third of them “live below the poverty line” (Sciarra and Whitson, 2007). The low level of education among the Latino population is therefore primary cause for concern (Llagas & Snyder, 2003).
Statistics affirm that Latinos are substantially trailing other groups in the United States of America resulting in a huge “achievement gap” which hampers the potential of Latino students to advanced educational prospects and enhanced professional careers (Olivos, 2005). Research also affirms that Latino students have a greater likelihood of dropping out of school (Fry, 2003) with dropout rates of 28%, highest in comparison to the dropout rates for Whites (7%) and Blacks (13%) (NCES, 2003). This data proves the academic and educational gap among Latino students and has lead to investigation in order to find the causes for this academic failure which directly results in social and economic failure as well (Olivos, 2005).
There are several factors responsible for low levels of academic achievement among the Latino populace including “social influences and lack of community support” (Sciarra and Whitson, 2007). Other important factors affecting reduced levels of academic success of Latino students include barriers to the English language with Spanish being the primary language of conversation at home; poverty, racial discrimination and low expectations of teachers from students of the Latino community (Gibson, 2002). Other crucial factors resulting in academic failure of students also include the lack of collaboration between schools, teachers and parents of Latino students (Scribner, Young, & Pedroza, 1999).
Numerous researches have been conducted to prove the positive outcomes of parental intervention and support and academic achievements of Latino students (Aspiazu, Bauer, & Spillet, 1998; Haro, 2004; Jones & Velez, 1997). Similarly, research confirms that lack of family and parental involvement is a significant cause which negatively affects academic achievement of Latino students (Bamaca-Gomez & Plunkett, 2003). With several studies indicating the importance of parental participation in the academic success of students, this paper aims to examine parental and familial factors responsible for the failures of Latino students and the cultural differences which hamper their educational prospects.
Studies indicate that the involvement of parents is positively related to achievement and accomplishment among children (Cotton and Wikelund, 2001). Additional research has been conducted in this domain and it has been firmly established that with parental intervention, children are more likely to perform better academically and “stay in school longer” (Henderson and Mapp, 2002). As such, Latino parents play a crucial role and have a direct effect on the academic achievements and failures of their children, being important sources of “nurture and socialization” (Olivos, 2005).
Reasons for low levels of participation of Latino parents
The participation of Latino parents in matters related to the school activities of their children is weak which has endorsed the belief that Latino parents lack interest in the education of their children as a result of which they tend not to participate in schools activities (Valencia & Black, 2002). It has been found that Latino parents and teachers differ in their perceived roles with regard to one another and Latino parents believe that their primary role is to nurture children by looking after their cultural and moral upbringing and instilling the characteristics of respect and good behavior in them (Trumbull et. al., 2001).
Additionally, Latino parents perceive that schools bear the sole responsibility of imparting education in children as a result of which they are not sure of their role in the education of their children since they consider it to be the domain of schools (Trumbull et. al., 2001). More specifically, Latino parents fear that their intervention with the education and academics of their children may be perceived negatively by school authorities and could be considered as disrespectful and interfering (Trumbull et. al., 2001). As such, when teachers consider parental intervention to be a sign of care and interest among parents, Latino parents may perceive this as disrespectful towards the teacher and school, since they consider education to be the sole responsibility of schools and teachers.
Besides differences in perceptions, there are several other barriers which restrict parents from taking active part in the education of their children. Language has been realized as one of the most important barriers of parental involvement in the education of their children (Hyslop, 2000; Shannon, 1996). Spanish is the native language of many Latino parents, who may have little or no command over English, which is a substantial barrier in communication.
Alternately, many school teachers and employees do not know the Spanish language (Gibson, 2002; Inger, 1992). This failure to communicate between the teachers and parents can lead to complete lack of communication resulting in little or no discussion between parents and teachers with regard to the grades, behaviors and other critical issues concerning students. When parents speak and know only the Spanish language, attending meetings is also futile, since they fail to comprehend the proceedings of the meetings in the absence of interpreters, which most schools of not have (Scribner, Young, & Pedroza, 1999). This lack of English speaking ability also restricts the ability of parents to help children with their academic work, which is generally in English (Aspiazu et. al., 1998).
Other barriers of parental intervention in education are the cultural barriers between the distinct school culture and the native Latino culture which is generally followed by the families at homes. Latinos are grouped as a “collectivist” culture and believe in the principle of working collectively rather than competitively, which is an important aspect of the autonomous American culture (Trumbull et. al., 2001). Belonging to a collectivist society and culture, Latinos favor relationships between individuals and members of society and family which are “interdependent” and stress on the importance of “social responsibility”.
On the other hand, most American schools follow an “individualism” stressing on the importance of competitiveness, autonomy and personal accomplishment of students (Trumbull et. al., 2001). Research confirms that Latino families and parents instill basic ideas of support as opposed to competition with their peers in their adolescent school going children, which is not supported at schools where children are not able to work and function in a cooperative milieu (Carger, 1996).
An important reason for lack of parental intervention in school activities and education of their children is their educational qualifications. When parents do not have the necessary language or academic skills to help their children and to take an active part in the academics of their children, even if they wish to intervene, they would not be able to do so. Many Latino families do not have substantial educational backgrounds do to limited exposure to schooling, as a result of which they are not able to help their children or intervene academically even of they intend to help and support their children (Lopez, 2001; Trumbull et. al., 2001). The low educational and academic levels of parents poses problems in children with their academic work and also hinders the communication between parents and school authorities because parents because parents fell nervous about interacting with them due to their low levels of education as a result of which they are unable to participate and intervene in their children’s academics and education (Floyd, 1998; Moles, 1993). In many families, older brothers and sisters with knowledge of English are expected to help and assist their younger sibling, which reduces their individual study time and affects their academic and educational negatively (Sosa, 1997).
Thus, there are several barriers to parental involvement of Latino students, which in turn leads to reduced academic achievements among Latino children. Schools and teachers must realize these barriers and take crucial steps to remove these barriers so that parents are able to participate actively in the education and academics of their children, which in turn will yield positive and enhanced academic outcomes among Latino students.
- Aspiazu, G. G., Bauer, S. C., & Spiller, M. D. (1998). Improving the academic performance of Hispanic youth: A community education model. Bilingual Research Journal, 22(2), 1-20.
- Carger, C.L. (1996). Of borders and dreams: A mexican-american experience of urban education. New York: Teachers College Press.
- Cotton, K. & Wikelund, K.R. (2001). Parent involvement in education. School Improvement Research Series.
- Floyd, L. (1998). Joining hands: A parental involvement program. Urban Education, 33, 1, 123-135.
- Fry, R. (2003). Hispanic youth dropping out of U.S. schools: Measuring the challenge. Washington, D.C.: Pew Hispanic Center.
- Gibson, M.A. (2002). The new Latino diaspora and educational policy. In S. Wortham, E.G. Murillo, & E.T. Hamann (Eds.), Education in the new Latino diaspora: Policy and the politics of identity. Westport, CT: Ablex Publishing.
- Haro, R. (2004). Programs and strategies to increase Latino students’ educational attainment. Education and Urban Society, 36(2), 205-222.
- Henderson, A.T. & Mapp, K.L. (2002). A new wave of evidence: The impact of school, family and community connections on student achievement. Austin, TX: Southwest Educational Development Laboratory.
- Hyslop, N. (2000). Hispanic parental involvement in home literacy. ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading, English and Communication. 4 pages. ED446340.
- Inger, M. (1992). Increasing the school involvement of Hispanic parents. ERIC Clearinghouse on Urban Education. 4 pages. EDO-UD-92-3.
- Jones, T.G. & Velez, W. (1997). Effects of Latino parent involvement on academic achievement. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL, 1997. 31 pages.
- Llagas, C., & Snyder, T. D. (2003). Status and trends in the education of Hispanics. (NCES Report No. 2003-008). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Educational Statistics.
- Lopez, G.R. (2001). The value of hard work: Lessons on parent involvement from an (im)migrant household. Harvard Educational Review, 71, 3, 416-437.
- Moles, O.C. (1993). Collaboration between schools and disadvantaged parents: obstacles and openings. In N.F. Chavkin (Ed.), Families and schools in a pluralistic society. New York: State University of New York Press.
- National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). (2003). Status and trends in the education of Hispanics. Washington, D.C.: Institute of Educational Sciences. U.S. Department of Education.
- Olivos, Edward M. “Tensions, contradictions, and resistance: an activist’s reflection of the struggles of Latino parents in the public school system.” High School Journal 87.4 (2004): 25(11).
- Sciarra, Daniel T., and Melissa L. Whitson, (2007). Predictive factors in postsecondary educational attainment among Latinos. Professional School Counseling 10.3 : 307(10).
- Scribner, J.D., Young, M.D., & Pedroza, A. (1999). Building collaborative relationships with parents. In P. Reyes, J.D. Scribner, & A.P. Scribner (Eds.), Lessons from high-performing Hispanic schools: Creating learning communities. New York: Teachers College Press.
- Shannon, S.M. (1996). Minority parental involvement: A Mexican mother’s experience and a teacher’s interpretation. Education & Urban Society, 29, 1, 71-84.
- Sosa, A.S. (1997). Involving Hispanic parents in educational activities through collaborative relationships. Bilingual Research Journal, 21, 2, 1-8.
- Trumbull, E., Rothstein-Fisch, C., Greenfield, P.M., & Quiroz, B. (2001). Bridging cultures between home and schools: A guide for teachers. Mahway, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
- U.S. Bureau of the Census, (2002) U.S. Bureau of the Census. (2002b). Current population reports. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
- Valencia, R.R. & Black, M.S. (2002) Mexican Americans don’t value education! – On the basis of the myth, mythmaking, and debunking. Journal of Latinos and Education, 1 (2), 81-103.