This paper presents part of the findings from a research project regarding home-school relationship in Swedish and Chinese lower secondary school. The project aims to explore, compare and analyze how formal and informal cooperation between home and school are conducted in different system contexts, and how students, parents and teachers experience and perceive parental involvement in education and in their children’s schooling. A comparative perspective implies the analysis of varieties and similarities, as well as best practices of home–school partnership in trans-national contexts, which could contribute to cross-cultural generalizability of knowledge in this filed.
In this paper, part of the empirical data collected in Chinese schools is described and analyzed, which consists of interviews with class teachers (n=8), school leaders (n=4) and IT administrator (n=1) from three lower secondary schools with diverse school cultures in terms of geographic location, organizational structure and students’ family background. The major finding indicates that despite differences in school culture, formal home-school cooperation is similarly organized in all three schools, and the new information technologies are effectively used in communicating with the parents. Dissimilarities are found regarding the forms and content of informal communication with parents, the relationships between parents and teachers, and the teachers’ expectations and attitudes towards parental involvement. The elite schools, where the majority of parents are well educated, utilize various channels to encourage parents’ participation in school activities. The parents are described as “understanding”, “active”, “engaged” and “supportive” in cooperating with the school. The rural school, where the majority of students come from farmers’ and migrant workers’ families, works rather passively with parental involvement. The parents display a sort of resignation from school business due to limited social capital and lack of cultural and economic capital (Bourdieu, 1993). This study underpins the importance of school social structure for home-school partnership. The concept of institutional habitus (Reay, 1998; Reay, David & Ball, 2001; Reay, David & Ball, 2005) enables us to understand how educational practice in general, and the relationship with the families in particular, are shaped by the school’s specific historical, cultural and economic conditions, and its pedagogical premiss.