Parental engagement, new technologies and education : between two cultures

Okpalanwankwo, Charles Emeka (2017) Parental engagement, new technologies and education : between two cultures. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


Parental involvement has underpinned various educational policies and practices in many countries, particularly in "Western developed" countries. Much research suggests parental engagement links positively to children's achievement. Within this discourse, the possibilities for new technologies to enhance parents' engagement with their children's education are widely hailed, yet scantily studied. Scholars have highlighted that the premise of this mediation depends on parents' technological competence, socioeconomic and cultural identities and positions. Minority classed and ethnic parents are often positioned in policy as "hard to reach" or less engaged. However, new technologies are rarely studied in relation to the impact of complex intersecting classed, racial, and migratory identities and the colonial legacy on minority group's ability to participate in education. This study focuses on the impact of subjectification, intersecting identities and post-colonial theory on minority group parents' abilities to engage with schools in their children's education.

This study adopts an in-depth qualitative methodology, consisting of 10 months of interviews, observations and recordings (2013-2015) to collect data from 13 parents recently migrated to London from West Africa. Theoretically, the thesis draws broadly from a Bourdieuian theoretical framework of capitals, habitus, and field, from post-colonial theory, and from intersectional theorising to examine how migrant parents in England, who have also experienced schooling in Nigeria or Ghana, engage in their children's home learning and communicate with their schools using technology.

Using both class and racial lens, this thesis highlights how a racialised group negotiate complex experiences of subjectification and oppression. It shows the complexity of black ethnicity and the relationships to education through its focus on West African migrants (as distinct from assumptions on aggregating African and Caribbean groups), and advances Erel's (2010) concept of migrating cultural capital to illuminate how a minority racial group's migration and shifting class positions affects their ability to engage in home learning. Migrant parents' accounts show how postcolonial theory can also be used in technology studies to illuminate how seemingly liberating forces such as new technology can inadvertently contribute to oppression rather than alleviate it. This study also demonstrates that informants who belong to multiple subordinate identity groups experience greater discrimination and subjection: intersectionality theory helps explicate their everyday experiences.

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