Role of mothers in children’s education

by Ramya Manoharan | May 16, 2017

Daughters look up to mothers

Another Mother’s Day just passed us by. Flowers and cards were presented, breakfasts prepared, family lunches organised, hearts warmed and much ado made. But, before we return to the humdrum of regular life again, Mother’s Day provided the perfect opportunity to explore the influence mothers have on their children’s education.

Mums more involved in children's education than dads: study

Several independent researches point to the fact that mothers play a big role in children’s education. In her article Class work: mothers’ involvement in children’s schooling, Diane Reay, professor of education at Cambridge University, says that mothers were emotionally engaged in their children’s education and that a lot of the input into their children’s primary schooling was a result of this.

The ASG Parents Report Card 2015 also shows that when it comes perceptions of their children's education dads tended to wear rose-tinted glasses while mums were more grounded and realistic in their expectations.

For instance, 77 per cent of fathers perceived their children to be high achievers, compared with 69 per cent of mothers. Fathers were also stronger in their belief that their children have more knowledge compared to other children the same age (70 per cent) versus mothers (61 per cent). 

Ninety-two per cent of fathers believe that their child is able to use skills learned from school when solving a problem at home, compared with 86 per cent of mothers. Mothers were also inclined to think their children would not stop until their homework was finished (40 per cent compared with 50 per cent of fathers). 

It matters when mums stay in school

Another study, which looked at the educational paths taken by 43,000 teenagers between 1993 and 2006, showed that while raising the education of both mothers and fathers has broadly similar effects on household income, mothers’ education has a much larger effect on that of their children’s rather than the fathers'. Researchers said this was because mothers tend to be the main provider of care within the household.

This is particularly true in the case of girls. There is evidence to show that for every year a woman stayed in full time education, the likelihood of her daughter also staying for an extra year increased by 20 per cent. The effects on sons are half of this. Paternal education, on the other hand, apparently has no statistical effect on the probability of remaining in education for either son or daughter. 

Experts that The Telegraph spoke to about this study have said that the change was due to greater gender equality and with mothers becoming stronger academic role models for their children, particularly their daughters.

What mums can do with this power to influence

Knowing this, what can mothers do to positively impact their children’s learning?And given that there is a big gender divide in the number of girls who pursue STEM and encourage their daughters to take up science and technology related subjects?

We asked Kelly Hollis, a secondary school science teacher and co-founder of #AussieEd, an initiative to promote professional development and continuous learning among teachers, how mums can make the most of their influence in their children’s learning to achieve this goal. She offers some everyday tips:

  • Avoid using terminology such as “Oh, that’s a boy thing” and rather nurture girls’ interest in STEM.
  • Mums can also demonstrate skills and interest in the field. For example, if something arises in the house that requires fixing, rather than simply defaulting to 'dad' to fix it, Mums can show their daughters that women are capable of doing anything by getting in and having a go.
  • Introduce STEM-based games and activities that children can play with at an early age.
  • Introduce STEM language into your children’s vocabulary.

Kelly adds, “I believe that mothers can play a huge role in their daughters’ interest in STEM. Girls look up to their mothers as their biggest role model. So mothers need to be mindful of this in their conversations with their daughters about STEM based activities and careers.”  

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