Whose Responsibility is Your Child's Education?


Well, let's see - join a forum, ask a potentially controversial question. Seems on form for me. Anyway...

I am a strong (very very strong, in fact) believer in the idea that bringing up a child is the responsibility of the parents. Part of bringing up is education and to that end, I believe that your child's education is 100% your responsibility. To give you my personal example, my daughter has just turned three. I am the 'stay at home' one and every day I make sure that I further her education. She has a strong vocabulary, has a decent grasp of maths (is able to add, subtract, multiply a little etc.), can read a little, is socially adept, has just started to do without any aids when swimming, etc. etc. blah blah blah. Obviously as a proud parent, I could go on, but it isn't relevant beyond what I have already said.

Now, I have this step-sister who has three children of her own. The youngest is brand new, so we can ignore him, but the others (8 and 7) have struggled in school and are only now catching up with reading etc. Whenever I have discussed this with her it has always boiled down to one thing: I believe it is HER responsibility to teach her children, she believes it is the SCHOOLS responsibility to teach her children.

Similarly, my brother has two sons (7 and 4), has a much stronger financial situation and sends his boys to a very good school (private) and to most external perspectives seems a model father, but even he thinks nothing of the fact that his children couldn't read before they began school, had no real mathematical skills etc.; he too has shifted the burden of that part of his boys' upbringing.

Now, we all know that schools are not perfect; over-stretched, over-structured etc., but even without that caveat, why would you hand over responsibility for your child to people who are (at least, on the first day) total strangers?

Of course, in my own situation, we have many potential problems ahead of us. Choosing to place my daughter in a school in such a way that she isn't too bored from being too far ahead, or feeling under pressure (by me) to be 'better', ensuring that she doesn't become too arrogant etc., but I want my child to have the best chance with everything in life that I can give her, and to do so, I take on the responsibility of being a parent. Should anyone do less?

So I boil my little post down to this question, asked in the title: whose responsibility is your child's education? If your child is struggling at school (or anywhere else), isn't it your problem to work at and address? I find so many people like to abdicate responsibility of their child's education and it saddens me. What do people here think? Is there anyone who honestly believes the state, or other outside system, has the responsibility; and can those people actually form an erudite argument to make me understand that reasoning?

Thanks! Discuss!

I think there's a slight confusion, brought in by the original poster, over what education is.

I see it as my (and my wife's) role to present our children with learning oportunities. It is then our child's responsibility to accept or refuse those opportunities. School is slightly different in that we have presented the opportunity and do add some encouraging weight for them to pursue academic activities, which they are doing. And yes, if (when) things don't go well at school we talk toour children and the teacher and try to improve the situation.

But I won't push my children hard in any direction they don't want to go. If we are in a field on a summer's day, one child will smell the flowers, look up their names in her book, and sketch them. The other will play badminton. Each child has been presented with the same opportunities to learn about the sense of smell, reading, art and sport. But my children are individuals and choose to follow their own paths of furthering or reinforcing their education (in its broadest sense).

Hello, Tekkani, and welcome to the group.

Gosh - that is a good subject to discuss! It is however a little too late for me to think about it now - I'll come back to you tomorrow, if that's ok.

Teaching your child to swim, to use your example, is a great life skill, and one I think is very important, so from a very young age Olly's been able to swim. But that doesn't make me a better parent than someone who doesn't teach their child to swim and leaves it to the school. There's no set time that children have to acquire their skills by; learning at 8 is just as good as learning at 2.

As for school, if my son was unhappy there I'd work with the school to ensure it got better, because that's my job. I don't know any parent who wouldn't. I think all of the parents on sites like this are conscientious and aware enough to be pro-active in a situation like that.

If he was failing in a subject I don't the subject of 'blame' would arise; I'd find ways of ensuring he got the help and support he needed. Again I'm certain that the other parents here would react in the same way. It's not a spectacular response, or anything out if the ordinary, it's just what parents do.

As a parent I find that education isn't one set-in-stone area of my sons life. He had just started school, and I have a great amount of respect for the work his teacher does, the ways in which she channels his energy and the ability she has to teach a class full of very small people.

It comes across as somewhat arrogant to suggest that YOU are 100% responsible for your Childs education. I feel it's more a case of working with school, with after-school activities and clubs, with friends and family, and putting in some hard slog yourself. My son is bright, but I won't take all the credit for that. Some of it is what I've taught him, some of it is inherent; as a child growing up in a privileged household he stands a statistically greater chance of doing well at school, and some of it is because we have wonderful friends and family who take him out and teach him new skills and piqué his interest in areas that would perhaps not occur to me.

I think there's a line between being proud of your own child and being judgemental of other children. Comparing your daughter to any other children is futile; she's very bright now but perhaps won't always be the best at everything. I have a friend who is very much the pushy parent with her daughter, and the sad part is that whilst L is academically very bright, she's unable to interact with her peers easily, which is far more important a skill at such a young age. In my opinion.

My youngest is only 3, no way would I sit down and do multiplication etc with him, I want him to learn through play at this age, he can count, can recognise numbers , knows a lot of his alphabet and is a very bright and articulate child (comes of having much older siblings).
Children, from this year, will now spend a mimimum of 14 years at school as the school leaving age is now 18. To say that during those 14 years that the parent is 100% reponsible beggars belief. It i a parents responsibility to nurture encourage and facilitate education a well as teach some things, it is a teachers responsibility to teach and nurture the enquiring mind and it is the responsibility of the child to put into practice what they have learned, to enquire and to do

As an aside, how will you sort it out when your daughter has a bad day at school, when she starts? It's inevitable that she will have an off day every now and then, and tiffs with her friends. How do you plan to resolve those?

Oh and welcome, forgot to say a proper hello earlier.

Just quickly (because I don't have time right now for a detailed response), I'd like to qualify a point. Being 100% responsible for your child's education does NOT mean 'being the sole teacher', it means that you take the responsibility for the choices. For example, sending your child to a local school is a choice you have made for the child (and therefore, you following your responsibility).

What I am questioning, is the idea that if your child is (for example) failing at a subject, that you would blame anyone other than yourself. Or that you would suggest that there is a failing at the school or whatever. I'm saying that if your child came home from school unhappy, would you simply leave it at ringing the school and saying 'my child is unhappy, sort it out' or would you be the one to sort it out?

There is a fine line here, which I understand, but it's about the onus of responsibility and not passing the buck to someone else.

As for the 'learning by play' idea, well, I focus on play with my child for an average of something like five hours a day, she plays by herself for another couple of hours while I am busy cleaning or whatever, she might watch a few hours of TV in a day, but seriously, there's enough time to spend half an hour solidifying an idea in her mind without in any way affecting her play level or 'pushing her too far'. She gets to go to nursery, interact with lots of friends and family and everything else. There are a lot of hours in the day; to suggest that you can't teach your child to swim, or explain that a bath full of water is 'twice' as much water as half a bath of water is hardly over-stretching.

I'll write a fuller response later!

I think you live in a bit of a blinkered world to be honest Tekkani.

I believe that it is both the school and the parents responsibility to ensure that the child has a good education.

I make sure that I do the homework with the children (they do it not me) we listen to them read 5/7 nights. Neither could read before they went to school, that was my decision, I wasnt sure on how to teach phonics so left it to the teachers, however shapes, colours, going to the toilet, being able to dress themselves, writing their own name, and more importantly, being able to share with other children and being able to communicate with other children and the teachers, was far more important to me than having a model child that could do all of the above and more.

Both of mine have excelled at school, infact my 4 yr old started reception last year (he was the youngest in the class with his bday being in July) and he was reading better than some of the children in the above year, so obviously not being able to read hasnt hindered him.

Just a word of warning though, your daughter may well be very ahead of her age at the minute, but a lot of children do tend to 'catch them up academically' by the end of jumiors, so whilst she may be very ahead, you may find in a few years she wont.

If something was wrong at the school, I would (in fact have done) gone to the teacher and spoken to them.

A quick answer to your question, both parents and the school are responsible.

ps welcome to the site :)

What a brilliant topic!

If your child WANTS to learn and learn, then I think it would be irresponsible not to facilitate that learning. I know at least two children who taught themselves to read at the age of three because they wanted to (one of them was me). I have to say that I wish more parents ensured that their children went to school knowing at least their numbers, letters, colours, etc, and how to recognise their own name - I don't see that as education as such, more basic preparation. If you've been reading regularly to your child, playing imaginative games, stimulating their senses gernally, then most children will pick these things up. I personally think its a bit sad when children arrive at school NOT knowing these most basic things, because I wonder what their parents have been doing with them at home!

Jacqui makes a brilliant point that responsibility for education rests with the three of you; you, the school and your child. Responsibilit for the basic mechanics of education always rests with the parent - you choose the school, you ensure your child turns up every day, you let your child know that the school rules need to be followed, homework needs to be done, etc. If you choose to send your child to school, its NOT your responsibility as a parent to teach your child Geography, because that is the school's responsibility. Neither is it your responsibility to do your child's project on the Tudors, even though you wrote your dissertation on Tudor domestic life and the project is due in on Tuesday. That is your child's responsibility, and if she doesn't do it, its she who gets the black mark.

Of course, if you choose to home educate your child, then their education DOES become largely your responsibility. Personally, I wouldnt choose that except as a very last resort, but other people may prefer it.

I don't think that it a parents responsibility totally to educate their child. Each child is very different.
You are lucky to have a bright child who WANTS to learn. There aren't many 3 yr old's who want to and shouldn't have to. Every child learns at different speeds, it doesn't mean that as they can't read, write or do sums at 3 they are failing and neither are their parents for not teaching them.
Not all parents are comfortable with "teaching" their own child.

It is our responsibility as the parent to nurture, keep our child safe and to love them unconditionally. To help them with their school work and to tackle any problems they may have with school or whatever.

One of my elder ones was reading well at 3, could write and do simple sums. This was HIS choice. He had seen his elder brother coming home with school work and wanted to do the same.
My other 3 boys had no interest whatsoever in learning before starting school. It was as much as I could do to get them to write their own names. But it doesn't make them inferior to their brother because of it.

My elder 3 have all grown up, been to uni, got excellent degrees and all have very good jobs. Just because the middle one could read, write etc before he started school has made no difference in the long term to what they have achieved.

You will find as your child gets older that her peers will catch up and it will be a level playing field.