The majority of research about parent involvement and family engagement indicates a positive relationship between parent involvement and student achievement. However, parent involvement as a useful strategy in education in developing countries is not well known, let alone researched. Until the current study no research has been published specifically about the types and frequency of family engagement in Tonga. This means there is no frame of reference for teachers, administrators and parents in Tonga to evaluate the applicability of existing family engagement research which has been predominantly conducted in developed countries, to schools in Tonga. This research is a descriptive, exploratory study to understand parent involvement in Tonga from the perspective of Tongan parents and teachers. The guiding framework was developed by Hoover-Dempsey and Sandler (1995) who identified three key constructs that influence parents' decisions for involvement -- parent motivational beliefs, invitations to be involved, and life context variables. Quantitative and qualitative methods were used to gather and analyze data that were gathered from teachers (n=88) and parents (n=503) during focus groups and surveys at four schools that are owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Tonga. The overarching desire was to understand why parents make the choices they do about the types and frequency of their involvement. Factor analysis and reliability tests supported the use of the selected survey instruments in this study. Some findings were similar to those found in research in developed countries including the way Tongan parents and teachers defined what parent involvement is. Further research could identify parent involvement behaviors that are particularly relevant in Tonga which improve student achievement Although the schools involved in this study are English speaking schools, language did not appear to be a strong barrier or enabler for parent involvement. However, a strong culture of respect and duty was repeatedly mentioned as potentially inhibiting parent involvement. Invitations appear to play a significant positive role in promoting parent involvement and may help mitigate parents' reluctance to participate. Encouraging and training teachers to extend effective invitations to parents which include specific suggestions for involvement may help increase the frequency of parent involvement.



College and Department

Educational Leadership and Foundations



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family engagement, parent involvement, student achievement, Tonga