Parental involvement and homework policies



Neo-liberal policy has been calling for parental involvement and family accountability as factors of school success. In Brazil, the Family-in-School National Day was launched in 2002, and national testing (SAEB 2003 5th grade student questionnaire) included questions on family educational and cultural activities, students’ domestic routines, parents’ monitoring of school attendance, help with homework, stress on achievement and attendance to school meetings.

Besides occasional and reduced participation of parents in school meetings and councils, family contribution to schooling is mainly through mothers’ daily monitoring of homework, a practice that depends on free time and cultural and academic capital. Parental involvement is gendered, as shown by differential expectations on parental roles and the blaming of mothers for students’ poor behavior and learning, especially those from low classes, whose children attend public schools. In a country where school daily attendance is limited to 4 hours, policy rhetoric stressing the impact of family input on test outcomes is blind to gender and class as interrelated factors affecting female work and single parents.

Moreover, research evidence on family/mothers, school/female teachers, and 4th/5th grade students’ perspectives on homework, comparing public and private schools, in Paraiba, Brazil, shows that:

  1. (1)whereas private school female teachers use homework that is more attractive and articulated to evaluation of learning, public school female teachers adopt homework for compensating students´ weaknesses and the low productivity of classwork, as well as for grading purposes, even when they recognize that many students do not accomplish homework; blaming of mothers and punishment of students who do not do homework is also common in public schools;

  2. (2)mothers value schooling but many are unable or unqualified to help with homework; even poor mothers have resorted to cheap school help services in order to keep their children busy and safe the other half of the day; homework time is a distressing and stressful experience for many mothers and children, especially for low-class uneducated mothers and public school students;

  3. (3)whereas low class public school students do little homework and are inarticulate about school, upper middle class private school students articulate life projects in which school success is related to good jobs, thus demonstrating  that they have incorporated the habitus of school success.

Bernard Gaillard

Maître de  conférences


Université  Rennes 2

Parental involvement and homework policies:

a discussion of gender and class implications

                 Maria Eulina Pessoa de Carvalho

                       Universidad Federal de Paraiba