Value placed on education and parental engagement

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Parents’ engagement in their children’s schooling greatly influences their perseverance, aspirations, motivations, and grades.

Published on May 21

This article is part of our “Determinants and the pandemic” series, which examines certain determinants of school perseverance in light of the current crisis and its attendant measures.

DeterminantImpacts of the health crisis | Concerns | References

What do we know about the value placed on education and parental engagement?
Value placed on education

A number of studies suggest that there is a link between the value placed on education by parents and their children’s performance in school.

For instance, a Québec study by Collerette and Pelletier identified that the unfavourable attitudes of some parents toward education could negatively affect the school perseverance of their children.[1]

Various factors may influence one’s perception of education. One might place a great value on education and graduation but have negative feelings about the role of the school and the people who work there.

Parental engagement

Research also tends to highlight the importance of parental engagement in children’s schooling.

Parental involvement, or lack thereof, can influence factors such as grades, sense of well-being, attendance, self-regulation skills, educational goals, and motivation.[2]

Studies on this issue have brought to light various attitudes and behaviours that demonstrate engagement, including:

  • Showing attitudes of encouragement and support
  • Demonstrating a positive attitude toward education, school, and schoolwork
  • Being a role model in terms of reading or community engagement at the school

The parental role would thus appear to go further than merely helping one’s children do their homework and making sure they attend school.

While over ¾ of elementary and high school students say they receive a high level of support from their families,[3] there are several other factors to consider with respect to family support.

  • Québec as a whole: the proportion of students getting a high level of parental supervision declines as years of schooling increases, dropping from 49% in secondary 1 to 31% in secondary 5 (QHSHSS).[4]
  • Montréal: youth with a high drop-out risk report getting less support from their families, with 45% saying they get low levels of support in high school and 9% in elementary school. (DRSP de Montréal).[5]

[Learn more about the value placed on education and parental engagement.]

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE POTENTIAL IMPACTS OF the health crisis on the value placed on education and parental engagement?

Although we could highlight a variety of impacts, for the purposes of this series, we focused on two angles: living conditions and mental health.

Living conditions

Government-imposed health measures, including the lockdown and school closures, have led to the development of new work/family balance arrangements and a restructuring of how families are organized.

According to a CROP poll conducted between April 17 and 20 for the Jasmin Roy and Sophie Desmarais Foundation,[6] a majority of those asked had experienced various changes in their working conditions, including:

  • An extension or termination of their work contract: 32% lost their jobs either temporarily or permanently.
  • Number of hours worked: 19% saw their work hours reduced, while 7% said they increased.
  • Workplace: 42% found themselves newly working from home. 7% of respondents had been previously working from home.

Other than work, a time of crisis brings about a reorganization of the family environment and the additional mental load this confers. According to the Institut de la statique du Québec, even in 2015, women spent more time doing housework (3 hours 46 minutes per day versus 2 hours 38 minutes for men).[7] However, mental load also includes daily organization, planning, and managing daily tasks, which generally falls to women.[8]

Mental health

The page on the determinant “feelings of depression” recently published by RRM mentions increased anxiety among Canadian workers during the current situation. Since then, the CROP poll cited above showed that 68% of respondents noted a deterioration of their mental health.[9]

The current situation has created a great deal of anxiety and uncertainty and raised many concerns in parents’ minds about education (e.g., conditions of a return to school, online learning, motivation, or the mental health of young people) which can affect how they support their children. The issue of a resumption of classes has raised numerous questions; in late April, 67% of respondents said they were anxious about a potential return (CROP survey).[10]

Another concern relates to graduation or dropping out, especially since high school students will not resume their normal curriculum until the fall.

As recently as 2013, a Léger poll revealed that 38% of parents feared their child would not finish high school.[11]

And we must not forget that even during “normal” times, graduation is a major issue for some vulnerable young people. For example, the graduation rate of special needs students is 56.2% in seven years and 36.4% in five years.[12]


The new realities surrounding work/life/family balance vary from family to family and even from parent to parent within a single family. For some, they have improved quality of life; for others, finding a balance is more difficult.

It is important to note that some of these new realities are not personal choices but rather come from outside forces (e.g., the workplace).

It is therefore possible that the strain of reconciling one’s new realities with one’s professional and familial obligations could affect a parent’s physical and mental availability and their degree of engagement with their child’s schooling.

In addition, a higher level of anxiety, regardless of its source, is likely to weaken parents’ ability to manage the new situation. Not to mention that some parents were in precarious situations in one aspect of their lives or another even before the crisis.

Any potential reduction in parental engagement (caused by the pandemic) that continues over the medium term could also be perceived by some children as a reduction in the value placed on education within the family.

On the other hand, increased availability among some parents during the crisis might allow them to reinvest or engage to a higher degree in their children’s schooling.

Other than the physical, mental, and emotional availability of parental engagement, other factors could affect this determinant during the health crisis.

Uncertainty and loss of reference points

While the major principles of parental engagement do not change, the way each parent implements them may have to change (homework routine, morning routine for getting to school, etc.). The changing and exceptional aspects of the current educational situation, along with the uncertainty of what school will consist of in the fall, may make it hard to grasp what the role and engagement of parents will be in the “new normal.”

Current and future changes

Since the measures to counter the pandemic are expected to last for months, certain changes related to parental situations may understandably become part of daily life. Other adjustments are also to be expected in the future, so parents’ ability to balance the needs and obligations of work, life, and family over the medium and long term may still change.

Parents of special-needs children

Routine is important for some of these children. They are often more sensitive to change and the unforeseen, and their world view is slightly different at times, so it is completely reasonable to believe that acclimatizing to the “new normal” will also be more demanding on their parents.

And we must not forget that the parents of special-needs children often have it doubly hard because in addition to providing the same support that all parents give their children, such as monitoring schoolwork, they have an added supervisory role to meet their child’s developmental needs. To this is added, for some, reduced access to external services (schools, relief centres) and home services (due to compliance with health measures).

The number, age, guidance needs, and “nature” of children

Every family is different. Having a large family, having very young children, having children with illnesses all have their own particular characteristics, and those characteristics create their own demands on parental engagement.

The pandemic has disrupted parents’ abilities to juggle the various aspects of family life, and this could affect how parents are perceived as educational supports.


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[1] Daniel Pelletier et Pierre Collerette, Étude comparative des dispositions des parents de 8 commissions scolaires et du lien avec la persévérance scolaire des élèves, Université du Québec en Outaouais, Consortium Outaouais de recherche sur la persévérance scolaire et la réussite scolaires, 2013. Disponible en ligne : < >

[2] Asdih, 2012; Deslandes, 2009; Deslandes and Jacques, 2004; Grolnick et al., 1997, 2000; Henderson and Mapp, 2002; Izzo et al., 1999; Ladner, 2006  cited by Serge Larivée, “L’engagement des parents: rôles, attentes et enjeux”, Réseau Réussite Montréal symposium, October 27, 2014. Available  online: <>.

[3] In elementary school, 86% of students report getting a HIGH level from their families (Montréal data, TOPO). In high school, this is 78% of students (Québec-wide data, QHSHSS).

Direction régionale de santé publique (2018) “Portrait des jeunes montréalais de 6ième année: résultats de l’enquête TOPO 2017.” QHSHSS, 2016-2017. Available online: <>.

[4] QHSHSS, 2016–2017. Available online: <>.

[5] DRSP, 2019, “Regard sur la santé des jeunes Montréalais à risque élevé de décrochage scolaire.” Available online: < >.

[6]  CROP poll: La santé mentale des Québecois à l’heure de la COVID-19, for the Jasmin Roy and Sophie Desmarais Foundation, conducted from April 17 to 20, 2020. Available online: < >. 

[7] Valérie Simard, “Partager le poids de la charge mentale,” La Presse, October 4, 2019. Available online: < >.

[7] Monique Haicault worked on the concept of mental load. (Monique Haicault, “La Gestion ordinaire de la vie en deux,” Sociologie du travail, vol. 26. “Travail des femmes et famille,” no. 3,‎ July-August-September 1984, p. 268-27.).

[8] CROP poll: La santé mentale des Québecois à l’heure de la COVID-19, for the Jasmin Roy and Sophie Desmarais Foundation, conducted from April 17 to 20, 2020. Available online: < >. 

[10] CROP poll: La santé mentale des Québecois à l’heure de la COVID-19, for the Jasmin Roy and Sophie Desmarais Foundation, conducted from April 17 to 20, 2020. Available online: < >. 

[11] Léger poll commissioned by the Chagnon Foundation, La valorisation de l’éducation, Conducted September 12 to October 4, 2013. Available online: <>.

[12] MEES, TSE, DGSEG, DIS, Taux de diplomation par cohorte au secondaire – Édition 2019.  < >.