Lifelong Learning Programme

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Building Partnerships with Immigrant Parents
Sobel, Andrea and Kuger, Eileen Gale
Immigrant Parent Leadership Initiative at Annandale High School in Viriginia, USA , March 2007
Web Article
Integration of immigrants students
This article describes an initiative developed by an American high school aimed at immigrant parents and their empowerment in school environments through a leadership program. It addresses the common problem of engaging immigrant parents in partnerships with schools, the cultural barriers to that involvement and the need to actively promote the involvement of immigrant parents from all cultures to promote ethnically diverse schools. It also describes how schools build information on immigrant parents on stereotypes and lack of knowledge of their aims, objectives and ways of thinking about education.
The Parent Leadership Initiative describes new strategies to involve immigrant parents. This goes beyond traditional activities that are common in most diverse school environments, such as the translation of flyers into their native languages or the immigrant parents’ night.
One of the strategies for the inclusion of immigrant parents described in the article is the setting up of leadership classes to empower immigrant parents to become leaders in their own families, schools and communities. These classes were offered to specific ethnic groups in their own language. Simultaneously, school teachers were guided into increasing their understanding of parents from other cultures and into developing partnerships with parents: teachers carried out surveys and personal interviews with parents and thereby gained inside information on them that they could work from.
A further initiative was the creation of a Parent Resource Centre through which parents could seek information on the school context and give advice to their children as well as empower themselves into understanding the host culture..
Through the leadership program, immigrant parents were able to design their own culturally specific leadership projects and thereby involve the school in the varying needs of its immigrant community.
Although set in the USA this article is very interesting for headmasters, teachers and parents that may find themselves immersed in very similar realities in European multicultural contexts and all immigrant rich environments. The article describes a school initiative to involve immigrant parents and build on their leadership skills that can be easily transferred to any educational context in multicultural Europe.
The article takes as its starting point the fact that when immigrant parents don’t respond to traditional parent engagement strategies it is mostly because they often misunderstand what is expected of them at school, namely they may presume, for instance, that it is the teacher’s job to educate a student and that participation of parents should be kept to a minimum. The article also highlights that most teachers and school environments have little useful knowledge on immigrant parents and their cultures and should gain more information on the latter by engaging directly with them.
Through several leadership actions developed to empower parents and actively involve them at school, the Parent Leadership Initiative focuses on a program for immigrant parents that develops their leadership skills, while simultaneously building a rich environment for their involvement in school, namely through a Parent Resource centre and translation service.
The Initiative highlights a series of important aspects that has high transferability power for any school environment that is becoming multicultural or has many immigrant pupils. Some of these aspects are the following:
- Immigrant parents lack knowledge on host school environments; they need support and information about the school context; so opening a parent resource centre seems to be a useful approach;
- Parents also need a personal contact at school. Thus, involving them in school initiatives that build on their skills is useful for that connection. In this case the initiative was a Parent Leadership course program in the immigrant parents’ own languages.
- Teachers should be guided into conducting surveys and personal interviews with immigrant parents because they have little knowledge on these parents’ concepts and cultures and how they affect their environment. By learning from parents, teachers also encourage parents to participate more in school through the leadership actions developed for them, the access to the Parent Resource centre or any other initiative;
- Understanding the academic language of school may constitute a barrier, even though the immigrant parent speaks the language of the host country; so, attention should be paid to developing actions in the language of particular ethnic groups and to ensuring that simultaneous interpretation is available at parent meetings;
- There is great diversity in language, culture and socioeconomic status in every immigrant community. The fact that most school programs for immigrant parents offer basic information and are geared toward lower-level knowledge and skills may act as deterrent for those parents that might act as leaders and who are willing to commit to more advanced training; This article gives a practical example of how immigrant parents may find their knowledge and skills valued and used to advantage for the advancement of their own communities through leadership.
On a practical basis, this project also highlights that in order to actively involve immigrant parents in school leadership, classes were advertised through fliers distributed at ethnic restaurants, markets and other community venues, telephone contact, e-mail, automated telephone service in several languages and posting notes in local foreign-language newspapers.
Name of Compiler
Margarida Morgado
Name of Institution
Instituto Politécnico de Castelo Branco
Role in the institution

20 December 2014

Final Partners’ meeting

The fourth partners’ meeting took place in Florence (IT) on 15 December 2014. The meeting had the objective to check the activities carried out since the third meeting of the project and share and assess the in progress results. A special focus has been dedicated to the presentation of the strategies to solve the case scenarios.