The main goal of most migrant parents is to create a better life for their children and most see this can only happen if they are properly integrated into British society. One of the ways parents have found to support their children’s success is to send them to supplementary schools. At first glance, we might wonder how parents expect their children to feel more integrated among society if they are only in contact with people from the same background at the Saturday schools. So now, let’s step inside the migrant parent’s shoes to understand how supplementary school are a tool for children’s integration.
[h4]Why do parents send their children to supplementary schools?[/h4]
Parents send their children to a supplementary school for four main reasons.
[h4]To boost academic results for a better integration among the mainstream school[/h4]
Some migrant parents don’t have high enough English language skills to be able to help their children with homework or give extra exercises if their children need more practice. Many migrant parents have a reputation for being more strict with their children Many migrant parents have been through a lot and worked hard for what they have achieved and want the same for their children. That’s why some children from migrant backgrounds are often overscheduled between all kinds of activities (sports, musical instrument, religious activities and supplementary school). Parents believe that if their children are at the top of the class, they won’t be seen as a burden on society. Parents usually want their children to study a profession like business, law, maths or sciences because they know that these are careers with less risk and where they maybe more likely to succeed.
[h4]To study religion[/h4]
To me, religion is part of a country’s culture so it seems logical that supplementary schools’ teachers give religion classes so the children get to know more about where they come from. This doesn’t mean that the child will be religious when he’s older but he will at least know the basics about his background’s religion.
According to David Canter, “it is important that people see themselves in a fully rounded way and when the school is defined in terms of its faith, that limits the way people think about themselves and provides one pathway that can open up the possibilities for more radical and extreme way of dealing with the rest of the world.” He also thinks that “Schools that recognise and accept faiths of a variety of sorts whilst allowing a mixture of faiths to be present seems to me psychologically to be much more healthy.”
From research this month, I think faith schools are a good way to learn about a religion. It doesn’t mean that you’ll become a fanatic. I went to a Church school in France until I was twelve, not because I was forced by my parents but because I was with friends. Looking back, Church school also allow me to learn so much about Christianity and about history in general. Joan, mother with Cyprus background, chose to take her children to a Greek church school because she wanted the school to take them to church for special occasions like Easter and Christmas.
[h4]To learn their family’s language[/h4]
Supplementary schools help break the language barrier between parents, grandparents or other family members whose first language is not English. The two Greek mothers that I interviewed, Joan and Christina, wanted their children to attend supplementary school because they wanted their children to be able to speak Greek with their grandparents.
[h4]To learn about their background[/h4]
Joan admits that sometimes she finds it’s too much to go every Saturday morning because her children are tired but she worries about where else they would learn about their background. Moreover, she says that she is more layback because she is the second generation. She was pessimistic because she thinks her children will definitely adopt a detached attitude towards their Greek traditions. Supplementary schools are an answer to these parents’ worries.
[h4]The role of parents within supplementary schools[/h4]
The different levels of parents’ engagement are identified as:
- Help their children with learning at home
- Keep in touch with their children’s teachers about their academic progress
- Attending parents meetings with teachers
- Volunteering within the school in different ranges of ways
- Financially contribute to the school
The level of interaction and involvement of parents in supplementary schools varies between schools and between parents.
Parents’ engagement in the school depends largely on:
- Understanding of the British education system
- Amount of time parents are able to spend volunteering for the supplementary school which often depends on parents’ working hours (full time, part time or not working), educational degree, and the pressure put on parents by the school to be involved.
Parents also feel more in control of schools at which they pay fees. According to Joan, “If the parents are not paying, [the school] controls them, but since I’m paying, I control [the school] and if I’m not happy I can pull my child out”.
Clearly, migrant parents want their children to integrate, as evidenced by their financial and volunteering commitment to supplementary schools. These substantial investments truly show how migrant communities are committed to improving their children’s lives through better education and more integrated lives.
While some parents also focus on the religious and cultural reasons to send their children, this focus is linked to their desire for them to feel more confident about who they are and where they come from. And in multicultural Britain, this can be one of the most important factors for children’s success.