Why has it taken a global pandemic to open up new ways of engaging parents in their children’s education? This is a question that we recently debated in the Center for Universal Education’s (CUE) first Family Engagement in Education Network meeting. Representatives from our over 30 project collaborators gathered virtually from around the world to reflect on what they have learned about parent engagement from the COVID-19 crisis and share strategies that they hope to maintain even after the crisis is over. “Our education systems have not been set up to value parent engagement,” said one ministry of education official. “What we need is a culture change.”

Many noted that the pandemic has forced them to lean in on real-time, iterative, inclusive, and active forms of parent engagement and that this shift has revealed better ways of developing relationships with families. More personal forms of engagement from phone conversations to problem-solving via text were seen as particularly useful in forging constructive connections between teachers, schools, caregivers, and families. Collaborators discussed sustaining strategies from basic communication approaches to structural shifts: For example, the implementation of a parent question and answer service ensuring that all parents have 24 hours a day access to the information they need—from school storytime for young learners to engaging children of all ages in the family.

Our project collaborators represent a wide diversity of perspectives and a richness of experience.  Hailing from 10 countries around the world, project collaborators include government jurisdictions, non-governmental organizations, philanthropic foundations, and public and private school networks. All collaborators are committed to reflecting on their own work, improving their practices and policies, and sharing lessons across borders and organizational viewpoints.

Read the full article about collaborating on education during the pandemic by Rebecca Winthrop at Brookings.