Link to the University of Pittsburgh
Link to the University Library SystemContact us link
AEI Banner

Children at the Crossroads of Opportunities and Constraints: The relationship between school and family from the children’s viewpoint: their perspectives, their positions. Bertelsmann Stiftung Summary Research Report 2 August 2020.

Betz, Tanja and Bischoff-Pabst, Stefanie and Eunicke, Nicoletta and Menzel, Britta and Kayser, Laura and Layer, Laura (2020) Children at the Crossroads of Opportunities and Constraints: The relationship between school and family from the children’s viewpoint: their perspectives, their positions. Bertelsmann Stiftung Summary Research Report 2 August 2020. UNSPECIFIED.

[img] PDF - Published Version
Download (1674Kb)


    What do primary-school students have to say about formal meetings between parents and teachers? How do they feel about more informal exchanges? What do children think of these interactions and which role do they themselves adopt? Those are the questions addressed by the second research report Children at the Crossroads of Opportunities and Constraints,1 authored by Tanja Betz of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and her team as part of a project jointly carried out with the Bertelsmann Stiftung. The report focuses on children – actors previously neglected in the academic and policy debates – by investigating their feelings about what makes a “good” educational partnership between families and schools. During group discussions and individual interviews, the researchers spoke with students in the third and fourth grades at five mainstream primary schools in the states of Hesse and Rhineland–Palatinate. Their goal was to learn more about how the family-school relationship is shaped. As the findings clearly show: Children have more than just one perspective and are not a homogenous group – the same way parents and educational professionals are not. Some want to be informed and involved when their parents interact with teachers or others at school. As they see it, they benefit from a close connection between their family and school. They are pleased when their mother or father comes to school and they themselves can have a say – for example, during parent-teacher-student conferences. The findings suggest, however, that this applies more to children from socially advantaged families. Other children, in contrast, attempt to keep the worlds of family and school as separate as possible. One child explained that in his free time he is “a different person than at school” and that this “free-time me” or “at-home me” should remain unknown at school as much as possible. Some children, however, do not succeed in controlling the flow of information between their parents and school on topics they consider “private.” Parents divulge “secrets” instead, or parents and teachers exchange photographs against the child’s will. As a result, these children try to avoid situations where their parents and teachers meet, which they perceive as unpleasant and threatening. In some cases, such meetings are even a source of fear. Other children, however, unquestioningly accept parent-teacher meetings and the role they themselves are assigned. Yet in these situations they sometimes feel incapacitated and powerless. From the perspective of many children, an educational partnership is therefore not seen as ideal, when all participants – teachers, parents, students – come together as equals, work closely together and discuss all manner of topics. The findings point to a range of ambivalent feelings instead. Children, moreover, are not the only ones who feel ambivalent, as other studies and publications have shown, including those released as part of this research project. Teachers, too, struggle to fulfill their role as school representatives – i.e. to teach, evaluate and, especially in the German context, recommend the best type of secondary school – while also interacting with parents and children as trusting, equal partners. Like children, parents exhibit considerable diversity in terms of how much they want to – or an – get involved in educational institutions. Against this background, we feel it is crucial to take a second look at the idealized concept of educational partnerships – an ideal very present in the educational and policy fields in many countries – and to consider it from a much broader viewpoint. We want to use this study to stimulate discussion about alternative forms, possibilities and goals when it comes to cooperation between parents, teachers and children. All levels – schools, educational administrators and policymakers – should develop and test a variety of cooperative methods. Moreover, they should do more to involve children in shaping the family-school relationship. To that end, student representatives should be systematically queried and included right from the start. Another key aspect is that the ambivalent feelings outlined above need to be acknowledged and considered. So, too, should the power structures and inequalities among adults and children, parents and educational professionals, and families from different social backgrounds. Ultimately, that is the only way to pinpoint and address the limits and risks of cooperation in its various forms, especially as it pertains to the educational opportunities and constraints certain children face. This is an important, challenging task which everyone involved must address. It can only be successfully undertaken if the necessary framework conditions are discussed – i.e. the time, personnel, training and settings required for effectively shaping the family-school relationship – and if adequate resources are made available.

    Export/Citation:EndNote | BibTeX | Dublin Core | ASCII (Chicago style) | HTML Citation | OpenURL
    Social Networking:
    Item Type: Other
    Subjects for non-EU documents: EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > social policy > families and children
    EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > education policy/vocational training
    Subjects for EU documents: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Series and Periodicals: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Annual Reports: UNSPECIFIED
    Series: Series > Bertelsmann Stiftung/Foundation (Gutersloh, Germany)
    Depositing User: Daniel Pennell
    Official EU Document: No
    Language: English
    Date Deposited: 22 Sep 2020 08:47
    Number of Pages: 52
    Last Modified: 22 Sep 2020 08:47

    Actions (login required)

    View Item

    Document Downloads