The commonwealth in education

While we recognise that Zimbabwe withdrew from the Commonwealth in 2003, the concept of the Commonwealth also has significance for us all in education.

While we recognise that Zimbabwe withdrew from the Commonwealth in 2003, the concept of the Commonwealth also has significance for us all in education.

Education, after all, is about the common ‘wealth’ but ‘wealth’ in its original meaning referred not to finances but to our well-being. So, as the Commonwealth is concerned for the common well-being of all its 53 member states, so the ministry of Primary and Secondary Education is concerned for the ‘wealth’ of all its nine thousand plus schools.

The schools are all different but also inter-dependent; they are partners. We celebrate the same things as we look to the big picture. So while each school markets their differences we must maintain our common ground if we are to achieve our common well-being.

Parents must understand that each school is part of a bigger commonwealth and part of a bigger picture than simply that school. Schools are partners. Sporting pupils will not develop if only a few schools are strong.

Conversely, combined school events underline the beauty of the togetherness, of the collegiality, of the common purpose. All our children benefit more when schools share ideas, resources, expertise and experiences. Heads know that; parents must understand that too.

One of the biggest challenges that all schools face is where the school and the parent do not endorse or reinforce the same message or values at school and at home. We must have the common values for the well-being of the children. In that regard therefore, there should be certain, clear, common traits of parents, which are the very traits that schools are endeavouring to bring out in the pupils.

Firstly, parents must be good role models. Furthermore, parents must practise what they (and the schools) preach. It is interesting that one writer [Virginia Satir] has stated that “Every word, facial expression, gesture, or action on the part of a parent gives the child some message about self-worth. It is sad that so many parents don’t realize what messages they are sending.” The way we drive our car (and comment on other drivers) speaks volumes to our children.

 The way we behave at sports fixtures counts more than results. Speaking on cell phones (after being asked to turn them off) during concerts or plays sends the wrong message (pardon the pun). The way we speak to, or about, teachers in front of our children will stay long in the child’s memory.

Secondly, integrity is a key value that all schools should uphold but if the message is not supported by the parent it will not only confuse the child but deeply affect him or her. Yet some parents often tell blatant lies to the school, be it about why they are late to school, why the fees are not forthcoming, what the child is doing at the weekend.

Some encourage their child to go against the school’s authority, whether it is by allowing the child to go to school in incorrect uniform or without a car license, or by picking them up when the child is not free to do so. Schools have a strong commitment to speak out and act against any bullying and yet some parents will try to bully school authorities into agreeing to their personal request or agenda.

They want their child to benefit more than others; they threaten the school with ‘visits’ if they do not like something. They complain about aspects of the school life but do not offer their assistance just as they complain about the referee without ever having trained as a referee. We need common integrity.

Thirdly, parents must be people with moral courage. There is much bravado at braais about their ‘war stories’, about what they did at school or have done in suspect business deals; yet many do not have the moral courage to say “No” to their own child. Some love to confront the school but not the child.

Some allow their children to get drunk; they even laugh at it. Others allow their child to go to nightclubs under-age because they are scared their child will not like them. Sadly, as the comedian Bill Cosby once put it, “Parents are not interested in justice; they’re interested in peace and quiet.”

We have our difficulties and differences; we know that all too well. Let us not make it any harder but instead let us work, as school and parents together, for the common well-being of our children, our schools, our country, our future.

Together we need all to see that it will only be well when we have this common theme, common vision, common message and commitment. We seek the common wealth, the well-being of our children, and we will only achieve it when parents truly are partners

  • Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools [ATS]. The views expressed in this article, however, are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the ATS. Email: [email protected]
  • website: www.atschisz

Related Topics