Page: 115-126 Author: Vojtíšková, K. Key words: family and school, focus groups, social inequalities, cultural resources, communication
The quality of the family-school relation-ship is considered to be one of the key fac-tors influencing the school achievement of children. As such it contributes to processes of inter-generational reproduction of edu-cation opportunity and differential advan-tages among children (Katrňák2004, Lareau 2003). The text focuses on the description of situations where family and school are in conflict, the mother‘s account of parent participation, and the process and outcome of parent-school interaction. The results show how different styles of representation of school conflicts and different approaches to solving conflicts on the side of parents are connected with differences in family cultural capital.
Nine focus group discussions with moth-ers of 14-15-year-old old children from three localities in the Czech Republic, vary-ing socially and educationally provided the basis for the research. Through analysis of the statements made, four classes of reasons for school-parent interactions were identi-fied: 1. problematic behaviour of child, 2. discontent with teacher-child relationship, 3. perceived low quality of school education,
and 4. misunderstanding between child and teacher(s).
Some mothers with lower education (but none with higher education) talked about the bad behaviour of their children in class, and so implicitly accepted the perspective of the teaching authorities. They did not feel confident and entitled enough to interfere with the education of their child. The child was held responsible and the school was authorised to discipline him/her. These mothers relied on a division of labour between family and school. They did not object to the grades given to children and most valued those teachers who were able to gain respect from their children/students and who were not willing to call parents immediately in case ofproblems.
Mothers with higher education presented their stories in quite a different way. They pointed out failures on the side of school or teachers and described themselves as successful in dealing with school with the clear aim of pursuing children‘s or family interests. Their activities in this respect were discursively constructed as explaining children behaviour, defending the child‘s version of the story, feeling and motives. To meet their goals they deployed a kind of partner communication, also negotiating with head teachers, making claims, arguing andproposingpossible solutions. In interac-tions they strove to protect positive image of pupil/student and facilitate the developing individuality of children.
Conduct defined by school authorities as problematic was seen as a sign of an antagonistic relationship between children and the school environment/teachers, and of reluctance to accept school norms and adapt to it on the part of children with low levels of the cultural capital valued at schools. Misunderstanding between children and teachers on the other hand was mentioned by mothers whose children did not have a „real“ problem, and who realistically expected that the children would sometimes experience some discomfort on their long path to achieving educational success.