“I’m Not Sure Whether They Represent Us All or They Just Act for Their Own (Children’s) Interests”: The Multiple Agendas of School Parent Associations in Cyprus.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 09:06
Oral Presentation
Loizos SYMEOU, European University Cyprus, Cyprus
This paper presents the findings of a research study which investigates the role of organized parents in primary education in Cyprus. Parents of pupils in primary education may participate on a voluntary basis after being elected in parents’ associations at the school, local, and national level but do not participate in any educational decisions or policy-making. Parents’ representatives at the national level, however, constitute a significant power-group and manage to influence the official educational policy, without this being officially guaranteed through any relevant national legislation. The findings presented in this paper are based on the analysis of interviews from Parents’ Associations members as well as parents that do not participate in their schools’ Parents’ Associations. The paper discusses how those parents elected in their school’s Parents’ Association access policy and decision-making processes and highlights the different ways in which these parents act either for their own children’s interest or the whole school population. The study suggests that these families have their voice heard more compared to their counterparts, and gain more opportunities to get involved in the school, in ways that they are inclined to act more for their children’s interests rather than the whole student body interests. These findings appear to be culturally grounded in local and ‘western’ values of individualism, autonomy and independence which carry implications for the social roles (and the parenting styles) assumed by parents, pupils and schools alike, and which the latter need to consider in the context of their relationships with families. The study concludes by suggesting that despite the alleged centrality of democratic discourse in official policy, low priority is attributed to issues of equity and inclusion in the Cyprus educational system, with particular reference to families designated as socially deprived or marginalised and/or ethnic minority families.