Two young boys sitting in the grass looking at a piece of paper one of them has held in his hands, along with a pen in the other hand. Parents and caregivers dominate opportunities to contribute to learning Children spend more time outside school than they do inside it. It is here that parents and caregivers can shape their learning environments and opportunities. Consider a primary school child in Malawi. According to the pie chart below, the child’s opportunity to learn in school is effectively two-and-a-half hours of on-task time a day for six months: roughly 300 hours of in-school learning a year. In contrast, the child has over 2,000 hours of opportunity to learn outside of school, that’s 76 per cent  of their waking hours.
Pie chart showing division of hours per year available to a primary school child in Malawi with blue denoting 76% of time is the out-of-school opportunity to learn. the highest percentage among all other areas.
© Save The ChildrenFigure illustrating annual hours of opportunity for a primary school child to learn in Malawi.
To fully support children’s learning, we must leverage all available opportunities. This means going beyond the 24 per cent of time children spend in school and looking at time they spend outside. We must pay attention to the role of parents and caregivers during this substantial amount of time, and strategize about how to support them to optimize children’s learning.
A father and son sitting on the ground with the father pointing his finger at a row of five blue bottle caps on the ground.
© Save the Children/Rwanda/2018Jean Dacascene Hakizemana teaches his son Epaphrodite, (3) to count to five through an activity using bottle caps in Ngororero District Rwanda. Parents are taught simple learning activities like this one through Save the Children’s First Read project.
Lifewide learning initiatives for parents and caregivers  In Eastern and Southern Africa, many initiatives that address the role of parents and caregivers in children’s learning are emerging. These are working across a child’s education course of early childhood development, primary education and are geared towards developing adolescents and young people’s skills. Early Childhood Development (ECD) Primary education Adolescents and Young people How can education ministries support learning throughout a child’s life? Government investments must include action points that assist parents and caregivers in supporting children’s learning outside of institutions. For example, in Rwanda the new Education Sector Strategic Plan 3 includes a goal on parenting education and sensitization. The Rwanda ECD policy also strategically focuses on parenting education and is committed to rolling out a national parenting programme. In addition, the draft Literacy Policy emphasizes the use of children’s out-of-school time for activities such as participation in reading clubs. Modules on roles of parents and parenting education have been incorporated into pre-service and in-service teacher training. Modules for Parent Teacher Associations to train parents on how to support children’s learning have been developed; and for coordination, local leaders are expected to include sensitization of parents and parenting education in district plans as well as in their own performance contracts.
© Save the Children/Malawi/2018/BisceglieBonamali Lyson talking with his son, Hawa Bonomali, (9), at home. They are discussing the Save the Children Cool Parent guide. They live in Mkuchila village, Malawi.
Countries can follow Rwanda’s blueprint by including parenting in different strategic documents and plans both at policy level and for implementation. This will leverage the power of an additional 76 per cent of opportunity to learn in a child’s life.