Pupils of the Bridge International Academies (BIA) in Uganda

By Mike Opio

Many factors influence a parent’s decision regarding their child’s education. These range from quality, proximity, perceived prestige and teaching style; understanding these motivations is critical to designing schools that meet the needs and expectations of parents.

For instance, every year Bridge Schools Uganda surveys its parents to understand what factors are affecting their choice of school. The recent survey conducted in December 2018 determined that their principal reason for choosing Bridge was the quality of education — 97 per cent of those surveyed who had recommended Bridge to someone else cited education quality as their motivation.

These results follow the 2018 Primary Leaving Exam (PLE) results where 95 percent of Bridge pupils passed — outperforming the nationwide average for the second consecutive year. For parents prioritising quality of education when selecting a school, Bridge is a clear frontrunner.

One Bridge Uganda parent testifies: “I have seen improvement in my child, every day he comes home and tells me what he learned at school.”

Many of the parents in the communities Bridge serves struggle to make ends meet. Education opens up the possibility of social mobility, meaning that it becomes a priority for parents trying to provide their child with the best possible future in life. A CPC survey substantiates findings that Ugandan parents ranked ‘schooling’ as the number one characteristic which determines if their child is ‘doing well’ in life. With Bridge turning out impressive results from year-to-year, it’s not surprising that parents take pride in the choice they have made — 98 per cent of those surveyed identified themselves as ‘proud Bridge parents’, up from 95 per cent the previous year.

At the centre of any parent’s ability to feel safe and secure in their choice of school for their child lies their confidence in the teacher. A Twaweza study found that almost half of Ugandan parents do not speak to anyone about problems they identify at their child’s school, so it’s encouraging to see that a contrasting 85% of parents surveyed feel that their concerns and views are listened to at Bridge, signifying that the organisation is succeeding in breaking down communication barriers between school and parent. More than nine in every ten parents said they were happy with their child’s teacher. In a country where teacher absenteeism is put at 27 percent by the World Bank, a classroom environment that sees parents happy with their teachers offers a potential step change.

Another aspect to the developing bond between school leaders, teachers and parents can be seen in the amount of participation from parents in school life. An impressive 97 per cent of parents surveyed had attended a meeting at their child’s school. Holistic collaboration is an important factor in creating powerful learning environments and the evidence of parental engagement offers a promising indication for school success.

Overall, the annual parent satisfaction survey presents an opportunity to understand parent’s choices, learn what’s working and where improvements can be made. Understanding what motivates parents, could help policymakers develop schools that work more effectively for communities more broadly. What the survey shows is that above all parents want a quality education for their children and they make choices that deliver upon that. Knowing this is also important of school heads and management communities so that they can create schools that meet parents’ needs and expectations each and every day.

Mr Opio is concerned parent