Whenever we talk about exams it is always very student centric, which I suppose does actually make a lot of sense considering it is students that actually go on to sit these exams. However, often what we don't seem to understand, is the stress exams inflict upon parents. A recent survey showed that 24% of British parents have had their mental health affected by the pressure of their children's exams. A further 42% said because not knowing how to help their children with revision made them feel like they were 'bad parents'. Interestingly, 31% used money as an incentive to encourage their children to revise with the hope of them improving their grades.
There are many factors that can help account for these feelings that parents experience. Firstly, it may be that they themselves have not obtained many educational qualifications so they don't understand the 'ins and outs' of education. Although, it could also be the case that they do actually have an educational background, but because it was so long ago they don't remember how it all works. Alternatively they may have just gotten their degree, or had their children quite young so were in education themselves not so long ago. On the other hand, you have the case of first generational students who have parents with a culturally different educational background or perhaps a language barrier.
Regardless of the reason, the fact of the matter is that parents are simply not equipped to support their children academically. The system has changed so much they wouldn't know where to begin or how to start learning about the whole academic structure.
From a personal perspective, I think my own parents always felt quite helpless when it came to my education. They always knew I was bright, but I think often they blame themselves a little in thinking that I could have gotten straight A*s instead of straight As; had they known how to support me. As the eldest, I understood that there were a lot of high expectations placed upon me to be able to excel so that I could help support my younger siblings to do so too. I suppose in this indirect way, my parents did manage to build a way to involve themselves in my education; by driving me. They are immensely proud of me and always say things like "people will say look at Farida, doing what her parents weren't able to do". Things like this always leave me feeling mixed emotions. I am happy that my parents are proud, of course I am, but this does not address the issue of parental anxiety regarding their children's education. It isn't fair that my parents and millions of other parents feel bad about themselves because of a knowledge they weren't able to acquire.
I think the blame often lies within academic institutions themselves. Parents' evenings have always been used as a means to give you an update on the students' progress; what they are doing that is good versus what they are doing that is bad. Never has there been a timeslot allocated to how you, as a parent, can best support your children's studies. In educating students we have to also be prepared to educate their families. This is because they are the main support system for students at home, thus it is better to have a watertight support structure that consists of both internal and external mechanisms.
Teachers need to be able to give parents greater access to resources that outline the way their subjects work i.e. how many exams/coursework tasks are involved, as well as perhaps key dates by which certain content should be covered. Additionally it may be a great idea to devise multiple choice quizzes with an answer booklet that parents can use to test their children and identify any gaps in their knowledge. Above all, we need to be able to run workshops exploring revision: what is it, how can we do it, is there only one way?
Every parent is a great parent. It isn't fair that education can make parents feel insecure. We need to ensure that we are bridging this gap and looking at viable opportunities that parents can take advantage of.
We need to help them help themselves.