Introduction Parents and significant others have a big role in shaping the development of any educational institution. Who are the significant others in any society, that is, in a given town, or a city or any urban conglomeration? Or even in a semi-urban location? They are the trained sociologists, economists, lawyers, engineers, professional farmers, and of course, highly accomplished teachers and headmasters and the Principals of various colleges in leadership positions.
What exactly is their role? In the main, the role of parents and significant others will be centered around:
a) Giving useful suggestions for further development b) Acting as special Resource Persons /Adjunct Faculty c) Facilitating the growth of resources in educational institutions d) Taking parent-teacher associations to the next level and e) Making continuous improvement in personality building of students.
Giving useful suggestions for further development This is one point that needs urgent attention. Given the present state of affairs, when the schools and colleges are in a state of flux, the role of parents and significant others, will be centered around giving the institutions some good suggestions on managing the existing crisis. Post-COVID, when the economy picks up and the educational institutions start again, the role of parents and significant others will be to infuse hope and optimism in any institution. It is a slow and sometimes painful process, more so, when the Managements are only interested in making more money.
The challenge becomes acute when the institution is the only institution in the area. However, even here, it is often seen that a single spark from a parent or from some local person, can ignite a big fire that makes dramatic changes. The idea may be anything. It can be something related to the development of the skills of teachers or the introduction of a new methodology. A highly respectable organization like WIPRO, for example, has a foundation that has quietly supported noble causes like training of teachers. Getting the private sector to involve themselves in the development process is key, but the initiative has to come from the school. There are many instances reported in the press when some parent or some local advocate has contributed to the idea of developing the school in some way or the other. This has to become a norm and a regular practice.
Acting as special Resource Persons /Adjunct Faculty In the rural areas, one does hear of some good story or the other. Some retired teacher does the teaching of rural children for free. He goes on to bring in some expert or the other from the local area to make the students aware of the current realities of the country in the economic sphere and so on.
In urban areas, it becomes quite easy to access such resources. In rural areas, it does take quite a bit of effort and if some group of parents can bring about a change, it will always be welcome. For instance, the motivational speakers are making some effort to reach the rural schools and colleges in Tamil Nadu and they do it for free or for a very small fee. This should become the norm and the entire process of making improvements should become a practice that extends to far greater effectiveness. Motivational speakers such as Gopinath of Vijay Tv fame are doing a good job; there are many who are doing good jobs in other cities as well. The global speaker, Mr. Shiv Kera has been invited by many colleges in the urban centers throughout India. However, one does not need to only go after such speakers. There are many among the local population and even a good outstanding teacher who has found some mention in the local press might as well be the right person. The idea is to keep the momentum going in every possible way.
Facilitating the growth of resources in educational institutionsThis is extremely important. In the resource-rich English-medium schools, there is no problem at all. However, the Government schools in the rural areas and in the semi-urban areas need a lot of resources. They need to be more equipped with all modern facilities, particularly, the IT facilities. To give one simple example, there are parents who have mobilized old computers from the IT companies and then getting them repaired by pooling of resources; parents have a big role in making the resources available. The significant others, who are now employed as lawyers or doctors or scientists in India or abroad, can chip in with generous donations. These are days of Facebook. They can easily be spotted through one or two contacts.
Taking parent-teacher associations to the next level Parent-teacher associations are always the best forums that enable a free and frank discussion on all issues of vital importance. If this communication is taken to the next level in terms of the effectiveness of inputs related to the development of the educational institution, the nature of discussions should have more of a participative design that involves several sections of the society like the alumni, the rich people in the same locality, social institutions like the Lions Club, Leo Club and so on. It is these institutions that can bring in the resources.
Implicit in the aforesaid agenda is the possibility of the parent-teacher association taking on a much larger role in terms of focused actions; for example, in colleges such as the Indo-Amercin College at Tiruvannamalai, a district headquarter town in a semi-urban environment in Tamil Nadu, the Management is keen on taking the college to the next level, by engaging an external agency for personality development. This is a great step. However, this initiative has to go hand in hand with a much larger initiative of communicating the benefits of the initiative to all parents through regular meetings, to get their buy-in. This is vital in a changed scenario where the emphasis is likely to be mere survival in terms of getting some job, post-COVID. When the colleges reopen, these communications have to take place on a much larger scale, to enable the effective preparedness of every student.
Only the fittest will survive in June 2021, and it is imperative that the aforesaid college and all other colleges taking up similar initiatives secure the buy-in of all stakeholders and then go on to keep improving their action plans. The scope for further improvement is always quite high in any school or college.
ConclusionParents and significant others in any environment have a big role in the growth and development of any educational institution, anywhere in India. Their active involvement is very essential. It goes without saying that one can always learn from whatever successful experiments take place in any corner of the country.