Parent involvement in the introduction of human relationships education in Queensland State primary schools

Year: 1994

Author: Howard, Sue

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In Queensland education in recent years, policy changes at State level have indicated a move towards more meaningful parent participation at school level. In particular, the Human Relationships Education (HRE) initiative invited parents to have input in the introduction of HRE at their child's school. Such parent participation in curriculum development and decision-making at the school level appeared to be a significant departure from traditional Government policy, and this study sought to explore the input parents actually had and the factors affecting this.

The methods used in this study were ethnographic. The process used by six State primary schools to develop their individual HRE programs was followed over a period of 20 months. By participant observation, interviews and document analysis, the nature of parent-teacher interactions in this process and the perceptions of parents and teachers were explored.

Differences in perceptions did emerge, with teachers feeling parents had participated and parents in general feeling that they had not been able to participate in the decision-making. A tokenistic approach on the part of teachers to the introduction of HRE and the involvement of parents emerged. "Pseudo-participation" occurred through "pseudo- consensus". From an analysis of the reactions of parents to this approach, a disempowering model of parent-teacher interactions has been postulated.