Teacher at Fjell School in Drammen
What is important for newly arrived immigrants to know about compulsory education in Norway?
It is important that they are familiar with the practical things associated with schools. For example, it is important to know that children should bring food with them to school, that it is possible to buy milk and fruit at the school, and that Norwegian schoolchildren do not wear uniforms. They also have to know how to register their child before school starts.
It is also important that parents are both familiar with the Norwegian school system and the school’s expectations. Norwegian schools may be different to the schools they are used to. It is therefore important that the parents get to know the school’s methods and goals.
What do schools expect from parents?
That first and foremost it is important that parents show an interest in their child’s schooling. Since children do not get grades in primary school and no one has to repeat the same year, some parents may think that the children’s efforts at school are not that important. This attitude can be passed on and influence the child’s attitude. Parents have to show their children that school is important!
Parents must ensure that the child does his or her homework. The parents can of course listen to their child when they have reading homework, even if they do not understand everything that is being read. Parents are also responsible for the child getting enough sleep and being rested when they start the school day.
Cooperation with the school is important. The school expects the parents to come to meetings with teachers about their children. But schools expect more than this. Parents are also expected to make a commitment on a class level and turn up to meetings involving all the parents of the children in a class. They can also get involved on a school level and participate in the parents’ working committee (FAU). In this way the parents can help to ensure that the school is equipped to help their child flourish. Parents must give their children an opportunity to interact with Norwegian speaking children. The child’s Norwegian skills must be stimulated. This does not mean that the parents should put their own mother tongue to one side. The parents should speak to their children in their mother tongue if this is what feels natural. They should read or tell their children stories, rhymes and about customs from their own culture, just as they would in their homeland. It is important for parents to be regarded as competent adults by their children. In many cases this is often best achieved by them being able to “be themselves” in their mother tongue. Children who speak their mother tongue well also learn Norwegian better.
What do parents expect from schools?
They expect children to acquire a good standard of knowledge. Many immigrant parents expect an education they recognise from their own education. They expect teachers to maintain discipline in the classroom and communicate knowledge. They can easily become frustrated with Norwegians schools. Many perceive them as having no boundaries and as not being very serious. It could be that they do not realise that the school’s goal is to develop children into independent individuals with their own opinions who have learnt to find their own way in the modern information society.
Have you experienced any misunderstandings?
Some parents do not understand that the teaching that takes place outside the school building is just as important as what goes on in the classroom. Some parents think that their children may just as well stay home if the class is only going for a walk in the forest anyway. This is a big misunderstanding. It is easier to learn about a tree when you are out in nature than by reading about it in a book.
What are your hopes for the future?
I want schools and parents to understand each other’s situations and roles. I also want both parties to have the most similar values possible so that both are pulling in the same direction. That would be best for the children.
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