The European conference on family learning held in Luxembourg resulted in some very useful insights into the topic. Below are described the main conclusions drawn from the 2 days of sharing experiences, ideas and best practices.
1. Family learning on European and national education and training agendas!
The family is a key factor in a child’s or young person’s school success. Family learning has proved especially useful for breaking the intergenerational cycle of poor literacy skills as well as preventing school failure and dropout.
On the one hand, family learning is an instrument designed to improve literacy skills and boost parents’ employability and their social integration. On the other hand, by empowering parents, it also fosters children’s development.
Children are our future and parents are their first educators. This reality is greatly emphasised by the family learning approach. It is part of a lifelong learning strategy which involves every generation and has positive effects on all aspects of families’ lives.
The concept of family learning aims to promote equity especially by reaching out to disadvantaged and young families where parents left school too early themselves. It is also an effective tool to promote education among refugee families.
It leads to a more open school where families are the drivers of change. Family learning has the potential to empower parents to become more involved in their children’s education. By promoting partnerships, family learning approach leads to more efficient education policies with lower dropout rates and improved educational attainment in general.
The EU should play a pivotal role in creating a European family learning framework, encouraging countries to be active in the field and achieve common goals. It would allow member states to pool their knowledge and expertise and share best practices.
2. Institutional framework for a sustainable implementation of family learning
It is clear that in order to increase effectivity, all actors need to work together. The implementation should lead to territorial but also interministerial partnerships.
This should generate a family learning framework which facilitates rather than prescribes the implementation and which provides tools to work with in various policy areas (such as education, social, integration and health policies). A top-down approach needs to be combined with a bottom-up approach responding to specific local needs, highlighting and showcasing best practices.
Family learning requires a holistic partnership approach. It ought to reach out particularly to young families even before the birth of their children and shape an intergenerational setting covering all phases of life. In order to do this, it is crucial to increase all actors’ awareness and to advise decision makers accordingly.
In addition, family learning should be integrated within the initial and continuous training of education personnel and within learning activities for parents and caregivers of young children (aged 0-3). One possible way of achieving this could be linking family learning to parental leave schemes. Furthermore, adequate resources should be made available for municipalities and community workers, to enable them to effectively respond to local needs.
Structural funds could play an essential role in developing a sound financial framework in support of the family learning strategy.
Finally, it is essential to integrate family learning into a legal framework for formal and non-formal education.
3. Criteria for family learning practices
In order to be considered effective, family learning practices have to respond to several criteria and principles.
First of all, the practices need to be of a high quality and offered in the proximity to families’ homes. In order to ensure a high-quality offer, trainers need to receive appropriate training themselves. They have to be open-minded and respect parents’ dignity, privacy and their own way of educating their children. They need to be able to value and strengthen parents’ skills and talents, regarding them as partners in education.
Moreover, by creating local partnerships, offers can more easily be adapted to the needs of the parents. Offers have to be flexible and adapted to the parents’ availability, but they also have to be inclusive, accessible, personalised and multilingual to overcome language barriers. Furthermore, they need to be tailored to specific needs involving local communities. In short, offers need to be diversified and flexibly respond to every family’s needs.
Finally, for family learning practices to be effective there is a need to create a platform where practitioners can share and discuss ideas and best practices.