The behavior of school-going children is determined by the efforts that parents and caregivers put to ensure that all activities that the kids engage in are checked. In the recent past, truancy among school-going children has increased tremendously, with statistics indicating a sharp growth in the number of school dropouts. Truancy is caused by several factors, which include poverty, drug and substance abuse, bullying, stress, and constant failures among others (Dahl, 2016).
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Besides, it predisposes students to the risk of drug and substance abuse, which may negatively affect their health and/or reduce their chances of becoming employed in the future. Unemployment among school leavers is a major threat to the national security since jobless individuals tend to engage in criminal activities to satisfy their economic needs (Reid, 2013). However, as the paper highlights, parents, teachers, and caregivers need to be supported effectively in their role of addressing these issues in terms of availing the required love, recognition, admiration, and supervision to all school-going kids.
Rationale for Review Strategies
The review strategies used in this paper are the following: thematic review and evaluative review. The thematic review implies that it is focused on a specific theme chosen for the paper, i.e. the needs of parents or caregivers of children who demonstrate the truant behavior. This strategy was chosen as appropriate because it allows the researcher focus on a particular topic, whereas the chronological order of the reviewed literature remains less important than the topic itself.
The evaluative review is a strategy that focuses on the information presented in the paper, but it does not merely state the facts. Instead, the evaluative review aims to explore the literature, provide information about the studies and their findings (including participants and procedures), analyze the discovered literature, and provide a conclusion based on the results of the reviewed studies. Such a strategy helps the researcher explore the issue more deeply, compare how different studies addressed and resolved the issue, and formulate a summarized conclusion based on the studies’ findings.
Overview of Truancy and Parents’ Position on the Subject
According to Reid and Morgan (2012), the number of unemployed persons has grown tremendously in almost every country around the globe. Consequently, employers are recruiting new candidates based on merit where the best-qualified persons are the only ones who find their way to the available decent jobs. Truancy leads to poor performance and subsequent dropping out from school, a situation that increases the level of unemployment (Reid & Morgan, 2012).
Research by Reid and Morgan (2012) indicates that parents of truant students tend to suffer from stress, which may predispose them to the risk of other diseases such as cardiac disorders. The participants of the study were head teachers and staff from primary schools in “the City and County of Cardiff, Torfaen, Hereford and Derby, Nant Celyn Primary and the Ysgol Plasmawr Cluster” (Reid & Morgan, 2012, p. 3).
The procedures used by the authors to conduct the study were observations, literature review, analysis of methodologies used in schools, and experiments. The research indicated that specific strategies of behavior management (values-based education, SEAL approach, multidisciplinary approaches, etc.) could be used to improve students’ behavior (Reid & Morgan, 2012). The recommendations were to implement the values-based education to teach students how place values at the core of their lives and avoid low-quality personal relationships.
Additionally, truancy may increase poverty since an aging parent in the traditional family structure expects support from his or her children. Therefore, failure by the prospective caregiver to secure a job is a major blow to the welfare of the parents and community at large.
Galloway (2014) defines truancy as the deliberate non-attendance of class by a student without giving any reasonable cause for such absenteeism. Generally, truancy is expected to reduce or even cease if it is followed by interventions from parents/caregivers, schools, or courts. However, at times the practice continues, and this situation underscores the need to devise other strategies to deal with the vice, for instance, by examining the needs of parents/caregivers who have to interact with truant kids on a daily basis.
For example, according to Nauer (2016), chronic absenteeism, which refers to the unexcused missing of class by a student, may have its roots on the parents/caregivers who lack the necessary support (financial or physical) to deal with their truant kids. A low aged student is perceived as having little or no ability to make independent decisions without the parent’s approval. Therefore, as Nauer (2016) reveals, absenteeism cannot be classified as intentional since the concerned student cannot intentionally fail to attend classes unless he or she lacks the necessary support from parents/caregivers.
While Galloway (2014) provides a review of the information on absenteeism collected from various articles and reports of national, state, and local levels, Nauer (2016) describes the research conducted in P.S. 48 Wordsworth in Queens, New York, NY. Galloway (2014) suggests clinical treatment and legal/administrative sanctions, as well as preventive action, as possible solutions. Nauer (2016) points out that the staff, the principle, and the community are capable of improving the situation if taught and trained efficiently. As it can be seen, Galloway (2014) recommends legal and clinical interventions, whereas Nauer (2016) recommends paying more attention to parent-community-child relations.
The Place of Parents/Caregivers in Influencing the Causes of Truancy
According to Markström (2013), the causes of truancy vary based on the student’s age and the general environment, implying the need to examine the parent/caregiver’s influence on a child’s non-attendance conduct. Markström (2013) conducted 52 interviews with 12-13 years old students and a qualitative research based on these interviews. The results show that the causes of truancy may be broadly classified as family factors, school factors, economic factors, and Student factors. Kim and Page (2012) explore the familial bonds that influence students’ school attendance with specific reference to the following factors: lack of supervision, poverty, and alcohol or drug abuse.
The authors used a multi-informant approach and recruited 74 elementary-school students with absenteeism issues (Kim & Page, 2012). The study stated that child-parent attachment was specifically important for the possible prevention or development of absenteeism. The authors recommend focusing the intervention programs on students’ emotion regulation capabilities and child-parent bond.
Traditionally, women had the opportunity to track their children’s school attendance. As such, they would easily detect any absenteeism before it turned chronic (Markström, 2013). However, due to the high cost of living and development of career opportunities, women focus on building a career, hence limiting the amount of time they spend with their children. Confirming the above claim, Staunæs and Pors (2015) assert that children are less supervised, and this situation motivates them to become truant. Besides, since parents are not aware of such truancy, they are unable to mitigate the vice.
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Other than the lack of supervision, Staunæs and Pors (2015) cite poverty among parents/caregivers as one of the factors that contribute to truancy among students. In some countries, especially the developing ones, parents live in abject poverty. According to Staunæs and Pors (2015), caregivers and parents who live below the poverty threshold may not raise the money, hence causing their children to miss classes.
Combining the affective and frictional methodology, the authors examine the problem of absenteeism from a new standpoint (Staunæs & Pors, 2015). The researchers also engage literature review, but there are no participants in the study since no experiment was conducted (Staunæs & Pors, 2015). Research by Staunæs and Pors (2015) indicates that children whose parents abuse alcohol and other substances have high chances of missing classes. The situation, which is attributed to the fact that such children face abuse from the parents, may lead to the development of negative attitude toward schooling. The recommendation is to use this combination of methodologies in future studies on truant behavior.
In addition to the familial factors, Kim and Page (2012) explore the school-based factors that contribute to truancy among learners with reference to teachers and students’ attitudes, inflexibility toward meeting different learning styles, and parents’ inconsistent procedures for dealing with chronic truancy. Teachers, students, and staff largely influence the students’ attitude toward attending school. If either students or teachers show hatred to one another, they will tend to develop a negative mindset toward schooling, a situation that may lead to truancy and consequently an added burden to parents/caregivers. Teachers and parents must be aware of how to interact with children to motivate them to remain in school.
Recent research by Bodén (2016) has also established a link between stress (among parents and children) and truancy, which is greatly attributed to unfavorable relationships between students, parents, and teachers. In her study, Bodén (2016) uses literature review, observations, and systematic reviews to explore the issue of absenteeism in the posthumanist society. Bodén (2016) who attributes stress to the fear of failure argues that such pressure may precipitate truancy in the end.
Generally, students are under pressure from parents and teachers to pass their exams in order to continue with their studies, hence increasing the fear of failure. Such apprehension of disappointment often leads to “test anxiety”, a condition that presents itself in the form of overexcitement before, during, and after exams (Bodén, 2016). Stress emanating from the fear of failure may be avoided by preparing well for the exams before the examination day. Good preparation in this context should entail serious studies, weeks or months prior to the day of the exams, and hence constant parental attention and guidance to the learner. Bodén concludes that small factors such as technology, complicated schedules, multiplying learning materials, and others all lead to growing absenteeism and need to be considered.
Stenliden (2014) found that adequate information regarding exams could help reduce test anxiety and the fear of failure. Most scholars have settled on the listed exam preparation practices to avert stress among students and consequently parents at all academic levels. Stenliden (2014) used systematic review that included more than one hundred studies, books, articles, and researches related to the explored issue.
Markström (2013) explores the student-based factors that are linked to truancy with reference to poor study habits, poor preparation for exams, and drug and alcohol abuse. In this context, poor study habits refer to the failure of the student to adopt the right learning behaviors. For example, students’ postponement of assignments leads to work overload and inability to complete tasks within the stipulated timeframes.
Many learners at all levels of education often spend much of their time in extracurricular activities while forgetting about the schoolwork. Parents have a role to play in advising their children to balance between extracurricular activities and studies. Given that most institutions require students to submit assignments within specified deadlines, such learners have a limited time to complete the tasks.
Consequently, they have to work under strict time frames to ensure that the assignments are submitted on time. Most institutions often punish students for late submission of assignments, a situation, which may cause learners to skip classes for fear of such castigation. In the light of this argument, Sherman (2012) reveals how learners can avoid truancy by completing their schoolwork perfectly and in time, firstly by heeding to parents’ guidelines concerning study habits at home and secondly by splitting the assignments into several sections and deadlines. The strategy ensures that students do not fail during exams because of the lack of a balance between studies and other activities (Sherman, 2012).
According to Markström (2013), the traditional methods for dealing with truancy involved informing parents about student’s failure to attend classes. This strategy holds even today, where parents are invited to the school to discuss the issue of truancy. Markström (2013) observes the family support as the heart of fighting truancy since parents are in direct contact with their children most of the times. Therefore, they are in a position to influence their behavior.
Chen, Culhane, Metraux, Park, and Venable (2016) allude that much of the stress that students experience emanates from family issues. Chen et al. (2016) conducted a longitudinal study that included approximately 58.000 students from 7th through 9th grade. According to them, the stress is mostly associated with financial discrepancies among parents (Chen et al., 2016). The recommendations of the authors are to be attentive to students’ individual characteristics and the social context they face every day (Chen et al., 2016).
If only relatives offered the relevant material and non-material support to learners to evade such conditions, stress would be alleviated. However, some students may experience learning difficulties associated with addiction, which may affect not only their studies but also their overall performances in the short run.
In such cases, Sherman (2012) recommends medical intervention in which a student needs to visit a psychologist for the necessary therapeutic treatment. Some of the therapies available for such students include counseling where parents have to be fully involved since the treatment targets changing students’ undesirable behaviors. Sherman (2012) used Check and Connect Intervention as the case study for her research; literature review was also included. The study’s findings indicated that teachers had the greatest impact on students’ attendance (Sherman, 2012).
The Role of Parents/Caregivers in Curbing Truancy
McConnell and Kubina (2014) argue that truancy could be avoided through encouraging students to prepare well prior to the examination period. In the study, the authors examine a variety of literature using Educational Resources Information Center, Journal Storage, and others (McConnell & Kubina, 2014). The large sample size consists of all the sample sizes from the books and journals reviewed in the study.
To mitigate truancy associated with test anxiety, McConnell and Kubina (2014) assert that parents and teachers need to help their students to prepare well for exams. On the one hand, parents need to offer favorable studying environment at home and avoid overworking their children. This strategy gives learners ample time to prepare for their exams. On the other hand, parents should provide their children with the relevant material and non-material support to facilitate their preparation for exams.
Such support could include availing the relevant study materials and offering physical and mental support. Research indicates that students who get enough support from their parents tend to perform better than those who do not have access to such backup (Galloway, 2014). Hence, parents and caregivers need to adequately support their children to fight truancy. Other than parental support, teachers who act as caregivers to some extent also need to support their students when preparing for exams. Teachers need to understand the learning techniques for each student to develop a curriculum that best fits the entire class.
The apprehension of poor performance is one of the leading causes of test anxiety. Hence, its absence will lead to confidence on the part of the student, thus reducing anxiety. Other than preparing well for the exams, scholars in the field also notice that good health practices may help to avert stress among college students. Stenliden (2014) argues that poor health among the freshman students may present psychological problems, which may lead to poor performance in exams. Some of the healthy practices that researchers such as Stenliden (2014) among others have settled on include proper nourishment, good sleeping habits, and regular physical exercise. Medically, proper nourishment entails consuming foods rich in carbohydrates, proteins, and vitamins in each meal. Besides, learners should engage in social events at schools where they interact with one another as a way of relieving tension.
According to Gase, DeFosset, Perry, and Kuo (2016), truancy may be avoided by integrating technology into learning. Digital games and educational toys have specifically been attributed to enhanced performance among students against the backdrop of the increased embracement of technology. Gase et al. (2016) used a qualitative descriptive approach to conduct and analyze 39 interviews with students from South and East Los Angeles.
The authors recommended modifying the school environment, improving school response to truancy, and engaging parents to address the problem (Gase et al., 2016). Galloway (2014) argues that the educational value of a toy depends on the stage of development of the child and that toys should be designed in a way that they align with the child’s developmental needs. Still, toys for grown kids may not be helpful to small children who are in their early developmental stages.
For a toy to achieve the educational objective it is designed to accomplish, it must be aligned with the age of the child. As stated earlier in this paper, a toy should be easy for the child to use. Hence, the child’s developmental stage should be considered when designing the toy. In the case of a learner who is joining the elementary educational level, refined features should be included in the play items to aid in the improvement of additional expertise. For example, interlocking manipulative toys such as the Lego or the puzzles have additional features that challenge the children to improve hand-eye coordination, patience, and the understanding of the spatial relationships (Sherman, 2012).
Despite the reluctance or fear of many teachers to incorporate holistic education into their teaching practice, as some may not believe in its effectiveness, compelling evidence exists that education that captures the students’ psychological and social factors is, at the very least, as effective as traditional teaching methods (Stenliden, 2014). A recent study conducted by McConnell and Kubina (2014) indicates that the level of enthusiasm for learning among grade five students who were exposed to holistic teaching style is significantly higher compared to learners in classes that were taught exclusively by the traditional methods. Therefore, embodying wholeness in classrooms will not only improve students’ academic performance but also help them to meet their individual needs, hence making them better prepared for life in the “real world”.
In line with Reid’s (2013) view, many educators believe that “teaching embodies far more than the technical; teaching requires contemplation and the imagination, caring and empathy, thoughtfulness, discernment, and cognition and emotion” (p. 12). On the contrary, the contemporary preparation programs focus merely on professional competencies, skills, and techniques that teachers require to adequately prepare students for the global economy.
Holistic education indeed is a new concept for teachers, parents/caregivers, and students. Integrating holistic paradigm into education will enable teachers “to see their practice as multi-faceted and arrive at insights born out of their own experience” (Muula, Rudatsikira, Babaniyi, Songolo, & Siziya, 2012, p. 112).
Therefore, the strategy will empower them to bring their holistic understanding into their classroom practices, hence relieving parents of the burden of having to deal with the stress of truancy and poor or underperformance of their kids. In the research conducted by Muula et al. (2012), 2257 pupils took part in the survey. The authors used SPSS software to analyze the results collected in 2004 during the global school-based health survey. The study found that unsupervised time with peers that resulted in harmful behavior was related to truancy (Muula et al., 2012). The authors recommended paying more attention to the relationships between students and their supervisors/parents (Muula et al., 2012).
Reid (2013) asserts that schools should work closely with parents and guardians to completely extirpate truancy. Most parents are unaware of such laws, including the consequences of truancy on the child and the society. Reid (2013) used literature review, case studies, observations, questionnaires, and experiments in the study to explore the causes of absenteeism. The sample sizes were mostly from schools in Wales and England. The study findings showed that absenteeism was tightly linked to poor parenting skills, low socio-economic status, poor teaching, and negative teacher-student relationships (Reid, 2013).
Reid (2013) recommendations are the following: the community needs to be enlightened on the same issue to ensure that they play a role in eradicating the vice. School administrators also need to understand the affected students’ familial relationships to devise effective strategies to mitigate truancy. Parents who work around the clock have less time to spend with their children. Such parents need counseling to help them understand the importance of taking good care of their children in preventing truancy.
Truancy refers to an unexcused intentional failure by a student to attend classes. Such absenteeism is attributed to several issues that fall under the purview of economic, school, personal, and familial factors. As the literature review reveals, detachment with parents, the lack of supervision, and addiction among parents are the major causes of truancy. From the findings of the review, truancy may be regulated by informing parents about the problem and collectively developing strategies to mitigate the vice. Teachers and caregivers need to be equally enlightened about the importance of adopting holistic methods of instruction to avert the fear of failure among students and reduce truancy rates. Additionally, parents need to be educated about the importance of fighting truancy by tracking their children’s school attendance.
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