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Citation Information

Type Thesis or Dissertation - Masters Half-Dissertation
Title The role of the family in determining a child's educational outcomes
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2011
URL http://open.uct.ac.za/bitstream/handle/11427/12452/thesis_com_2011_55794_kola_s.pdf?sequence=1
Despite the government’s attempts to remedy the inequities of apartheid, there are large
racial differences in educational outcomes, with whites performing substantially better than
non-whites. In understanding these differences most studies have emphasised the role of
school quality, without adequate emphasis on the role of the family. This study has
investigated the role of the family in determining educational outcomes, and further how
this is different for non-whites and whites. A holistic model of education was used which
investigates the role of the family, while controlling for the effect of individual and school
level characteristics that impact outcomes. Test scores from a literacy and numeracy
evaluation were regressed on family level variables (family structure, parental involvement
and socio-economic status), school quality variables and measures of individual ability and
effort. The results of this study highlight that parental involvement and socio-economic
status play an important role in the educational outcomes of both non-whites and whites,
even after controlling for differences in school quality and individual ability and effort. It is
not clear that family structure on its own accounts for variations in educational outcomes.
Rather it is suggested it operates indirectly through impacting the parental involvement and
financial resources available for education. Socio-economic status seems to play a much
larger role in explaining the variations in outcomes of white students as compared to nonwhites,
suggesting a threshold level of socio-economic status above which differences
matter more. Parental involvement levels are uniformly high among whites, and therefore
does not serve to explain variations in educational outcomes amongst whites. Parental
involvement does however have a role in accounting for variations between whites and
non-whites and also amongst non-whites. The implications of this study highlight the need
to encourage parental involvement amongst non-white families, as a means to improve
educational outcomes. The lack of parental involvement often stems from a lack of parental
education, impacting the ability to support the educational progress of their children.
Programs that enable and equip non-white parents to understand how the educational
system works, and how best to assist their children in school, would have lasting benefits by
improving the long term prospects of their children.

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