Parents as support system to children pursuing higher education in India

As board results acorss the country are out, and students and parents are focused on admissions to college, here is an article on the extent and nature of involvement of parents in students' higher education journey


Family Dynamic in Higher Education Decisions

There is this celebrated feature of closer family dynamic among its members in the Indian society, at large. We get to witness the manifestation of this dynamic (often in our households) in the debates and discussions on almost all topics from trivial to most trying and important. Naturally, therefore, we have a rather high degree of parents' involvement in the children's every step of the higher education journey.

Technology powered Parents - Higher Educational Institution Interaction

In India, there is a greater level of interaction of parents in the ongoing higher educational journey of their children. Colleges too are obliged in fostering this interaction with regular updates to Parents on the progress of their children at colleges. Technology has played a role in ushering in this interface with important milestones and metrices transmitted in real time to parents by the Institutions. The role of parents was sought to be underrated. Students, especially in the higher education phase,  often don't prefer too much of involvement of parents in their aspiration to carve a niche and identity for themselves. The role of technology and shifts in the generation of students and parents demographically has perhaps made this possible.

Parents' involvement in their children's higher education

There is a need to further channelize the relationship into new molds. What is necessary is to build a more direct and inclusive environment for the parents in their children's higher education. The results from this dynamic are bound to be positive for the students as well as the institute (Wartman and Savage 2008).

According to Henderson and Mapp (2002), parental involvement plays a crucial role in both formal and informal learning environments. It is associated with higher achievements, greater academic persistence, and better social and adaptation skills. I would further venture to say that it also strengthens the healthy parent-children bond and understanding at a crucial stage and phase of life of the children entering adulthood.

Sometimes, students are entrusted with responsibilities by the society, in general and higher educational institution. Student may or may not be prepared to handle such responsibilities. Those who are confident in their ability and approach to handle such decision making responsibilities - that is good. At the same time, it is equally healthy and preferable for those of us who feel like relying on parents to help us take those decisions and dispense such responsibilities. These decision making instances may be pertaining to choosing the well suited college or choosing a definitive academic path. It can potentially become an exciting and cherishing experience for children (students) and parents to collaboratively arrive at those decisions.

Donning the hat of a student, here are my suggestions on where we, the students, may benefit from such interaction with parents.

Parents' involvement & guidance - Not if, but what & when?

Parental involvement in choosing the institution and the courses / majors is important. Why?  Because, our parents know us from childhood. They have seen us grow. So, to that extent, they have a greater understanding of what we are good at and what we are capable of. Besides knowing us, they are also dealing with the world outside on a daily basis. They are better informed regarding the opportunities and threats on the careers front.

So, the question of parental involvement in children's higher education decisions is not that of IF, but rather what level and nature of their involvement. The "format" of parents' involvement and guidance must be that of a collaborative one allowing children to freely express / question them. For this, parents also must do their bit of research on emerging trends, take into consideration the likes, preferences and strength of their children, consult informed experts, discuss patiently with children and out of all these efforts a decision would arise on the choice of institution and major, etc.

This being said, students do not want their parents' opinions and aspirations to be dumped upon them. As per slightly dated research conducted by HSBC, most Indian parents want their ward to pursue Engineering (23%), followed by finance and business management (22%). However, out of these, how many students are willingly pursuing the said educational courses?

In the race for building a successful career, aspirations, and interests of students gets take a back-seat. We need parents to validate our choice of career and support it. Moreover, we also face the issues of convincing parents to pursue a non-conventional educational path. From design to photography, writing to social work, we as students want all options to be open for pursual.

Hence, what we need is a healthy discussion to strike a balance between the child’s interests and an enduring career path.


Involvement with the College authorities

Secondly, parental support during the course of the study is equally important. This holds true due to the huge amount of investment in higher education. Leaving aside the public institutions, higher education does not come cheap. Owing to the high monetary cost, one expects parents to worry about the outcome of the degree. 

So a student will be appreciative of parents involving themselves when the institute does not abide by its promises. Be it the course of study, practical experience, internships, or job offers. Most parents will not hesitate to pick up the phone and calling the college authorities to sort the issues. We, as students, will encourage this, as the risk of falling is considerably high. Parental support in standing up to the college gives a boost of confidence. 

All parents worry about their child’s career goals. Engaging with the college authorities gives them some assurance of the outcome. Some colleges have parent groups to discuss the future of their children. However, this is not the case in most higher educational institutes. It might help to build a Parents Leadership Council to help with the situation. 

Support for other activities

Higher education is not limited to academic exposure but goes beyond it. It involves all activities that help in personality development and becoming assets to society. It might be about participating in various extra-curricular activities, or being a part of projects and assignments. Pursuing such non-academic activities not only expands our horizons but also boosts our personality.

In India, only about 49% of parents choose happiness as the primary goal in their children's life. This figure should increase, as success is directly proportional to happiness and mental health. Pursing extracurriculars keeps the mind active and positive. Hence, in this area, parents should not only support the children but also take the initiative to give them adequate exposure.

Psychological Support

Next, a very important pointer is the motivation level. We want the parents to motivate us to do better and achieve our goals in whichever path we choose. This goes beyond just supporting the unorthodox choices but motivating the students to perform to their highest capacity. Motivation also helps students to become stronger and impressionable human beings. 

Lastly, frequent communication by the parents counts as indirect support. In India, most children stay away from home to pursue higher education. This makes them vulnerable to a lot of evil in society. Higher education is also a transitional phase from the comforts of the home to an uncertain environment. 

Communicating with the parents can help reducing the burden of the students. It might also ease some of the struggles that they might be going through on a daily basis. It might be discussions on academic performance, issues at college, or day-to-day activities, communication provides huge support to the children.

Stating from personal experiences, a student who has high parental support during his/her higher education is likely to perform and achieve much more than those with restraining parents.

The opinions, beliefs and views expressed by the various authors and forum participants on this website are personal and do not reflect the opinions, beliefs and views of or Genval Consulting Group Private Limited or any of its Partners.
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