Teachers and Parents Involvement in ESL Programs


The English language has gained international recognition and it is widely used in communication as well as teaching in schools. Recognizing the need to assist learners who are not its native speakers, English as a Second Language (ESL) programs were designed to enable the learners to develop competency both in oral and written English. It has been noted that young learners of ESL programs often enter the high school level with incompetence in English language skills (Roessingh, 1995). Most of the young second language learners fall short of breadth and depth of the vocabulary as well as associated concepts required connecting to an abstract nature and cultural insertion. This is irrespective of the simplicity in their acquisition of the grammatical English system. The challenge could be traced in the early childhood education of a child coupled with the different points of view held by both teachers and the parents of the learners. Manifestations of parents’ engagement in young English learners’ activities may not tally with the teacher’s prospects. If the literacy practice and expectations both at home and in schools significantly differ, there is the likelihood that the teacher may not accurately respond effectively to the student’s needs (Santrock, 2004).

Through various studies, a collaboration between parents and teachers is imperative to the development of young children and especially in enhancing literacy training and in particular in language training (Tabors, 1997). Parents’ efforts may bear no fruits or become ineffective if the preparatory schools teaching English as a Second Language program fail to incorporate the aspect of differences in language and culture as well as the attitudes that people have towards learning new languages (Saracho, & Spodek, 1995). It is imperative that teachers become aware of the cultural diversities and assumptions held by different people especially concerning learning literacy, parental engagement as well as integrating this knowledge into the curriculum and institutional approach to ESL programs. This paper seeks to explore the diverse perspectives of both teachers and parents implicated in English as Second language programs geared towards the advancement of language skill with a closer outlook in early childhood education.

Literature review

Various studies carried in the past significantly portray the importance of teachers’ and parents’ involvement in the ESL programs especially in early childhood education on the verge of preparing a child for the curriculum. Children-parent relationships significantly play major roles in several aspects regarding early childhood progress including enhancement of emotional development of a child, cognitive development, self-control as well as language development. Parents and teachers are significant models to small children since they spend much time with them. Studies have shown that children-parents and children-teachers associations influence young children’s competence in schools as well as enhance emotional development (Gregory, 1996).

Teachers’ perspective

Numerous studies show that teaching the English language to young children who come from multicultural backgrounds remains a major challenge to teachers. According to Saracho and Spodek (1995), the majority of teachers show tolerance for other people’s culture as well as language especially in the classroom, however, on regular occasions, teachers become suspicious of the non-English speakers who usually speak the English language with a non-standard dialect. The findings show that challenges of teaching ESL programs in schools for students with linguistic and culturally diversity include failure to meet the needs of young children learning English language, challenges in the language improvement in bilingual kindergarten children, unavailability of efficient nursery program features as well as challenges in preparing teachers for early childhood ESL programs in the context of linguistic and cultural diversity (Roessingh, 1995).

Garcia and McLaughlin (1995) attribute such challenges to a lack of commitment from the teachers. They argue that teachers make a tremendous contribution in bridging children’s culture and languages with suitable development programs such as ESL programs. Many teachers lack exposure to diversity while others might have been inadequately trained to teach such programs thus unable to effectively teach children in preparatory schools (Skuitnab-Kangas, 1984). According to Saracho & Spodek, 1995, teachers are supposed to appreciate diversity in communication structures as well as comprehend linguistic and ethnographic aspects of speech behaviors in order to improve their performances in teaching ESL programs to small children.

Johnson, Lee, and Templeton (2003) carried out a study concerning various challenges encountered in teaching early childhood education programs in the context of linguistic and cultural assortment. They identified various challenges from teachers of the young children who had participated in the study. The challenges included teachers’ lack of proper curriculum and assessment procedures for the children learning the language as well as lack of opportunities for teachers’ professional development.

Parents’ perspective

Studies portraying parental involvement in the literacy learning of their children propose that children who have highly concerned parents exhibit higher literacy achievement (Gregory, 1996). Studies concerning outlooks of home literacy situation often reveal that parents who clearly understand literacy the demands which are usually placed on their children at school are better positioned to create a conducive environment where their children will learn the expectations of those programs (García, 1995). Lack of parenting skills is highly attributed to the lower performance of the children who learn ESL programs. Sometimes, the perception of non-participation from the parents emanates from the attitudes and the training backgrounds of the teachers. This may be a result of teachers’ misconception about parents’ tasks as well as young children’s expectations (Roessingh, 1995).

Parents’ attitudes are very vital in enhancing young children’s acquisition of knowledge. A study carried out by Schaller, Oglesby & Barshinger (2006) concerning maternal attitudes and parent education found out that those low-educated parents who exhibit resolute attitudes towards the educational achievement for their children enhance academic success and participation of their children. Many parents especially those who are conversant with ESL programs are known to be concerned with the learning of their children. However, there are those who perceive ESL programs as failure programs that take much of their students’ time, have inadequate assessment procedures as well as encompass low content levels (Schaller, Oglesby & Barshinger, 2006). There is a category of parents with ESL knowledge who are dissatisfied with the Program. The reason for this is the existence of misunderstandings between parents and parents whereby teachers fail to understand the native language of the parents thus communication breakdown renders their ineffectiveness of the ESL programs. This is the reason why such parents prefer only those teachers who clearly understand their native language (Oyama, 1976).

Based on the previous studies, the researcher construed that teachers’ research needed to be carried out to unravel teachers’ and parents’ perspectives that contribute immensely to the development of English skills in young children with ESL backgrounds.


Research design

This study’s initial stage entailed a thorough outlook of the relevant issues an attempt to uncover fully as well as recognize the required scope and objectives of a research paper. An examination of various quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods of research was carried out but qualitative survey methods were preferred. The study adopted a qualitative approach due to the fact that the method is best suited when working on smaller samples (Gregory, 1996). Seidman (1998) argues that a research design comprises diverse aspects that are used in the data collection as well as analysis. A previous study carried by Saracho & Spodek (1995) disclosed that qualitative analysis most excellently outfit studies whose focus is chiefly to describe a condition, occurrence, problem or event. He construes that since the method is flexible, unstructured and is untied methodology, it, therefore, develops an environment appropriate for such research. A simple random sampling procedure was done for those parents who qualified for the research requirement. The qualification was based on the parent’s previous experiences in the English as a Second Language program. The other vital aspect was that they had to have a young child enrolled in the same ESL programs and more so, their children were of three years age group.

Data collection

Data used in this study were collected from parents who had been beneficiaries of ESL programs and they had children aged three years in the preparatory schools enrolled in the same. Data instruments utilized in this study were interviews. Interviews in this study followed an in-depth semi-structured format. Two parents and one teacher participated in the interview. The interview was also done with a preparatory teacher to establish teachers’ perspectives concerning the study. The role of the pupils-teachers relationship and the impact on the language skill acquisition in ESL programs came out clearly from the teacher’s side. These interviews were conducted during parents’ school meetings. They were held in the school’s board room.

Data Analysis

Data analysis is important in every study since it clarifies the existing situation as found out in the study (Skuitnab-Kangas, 1984). Data in this research was analyzed qualitatively and the results from this study were presented and described appropriately.

Analysis strategy

To analyze the data collected in the interviews, the researcher followed two strategies which are very helpful when undertaking research in the education field namely descriptive analysis and narrative analysis. A comprehensive descriptive analysis was conducted in this research which facilitated the interpretation of the collected data. The reason for adopting the descriptive approach was that it allowed a better description of the perceptions held by the participants concerning the scope of the study. Thematic analysis is helpful especially when analyzing people’s experiences in education research (Seidman, 1998). During the analysis and the verges for looking for themes, the researcher placed the locus point on the research questions as well as theoretical points of view that guided the research.


The researcher investigated teachers’ perspectives and experiences while working with young children who are from the dissimilar cultural and linguistic milieu in the preparatory school. The study utilized thorough interviews with two parents and one teacher. On the verge of making interpretations of the data collected from the interviews, the researcher developed an all-inclusive understanding of the way teachers construe their experiences. After making an inquiry, the researcher developed a vivid outline of the teacher and the parents and she identified themes from the data collected. The major themes that the researcher identified include:

  1. The types of experiences
  2. The link between experiences and adjustments in teaching approaches and self-perceptions,
  3. Teacher’s association with young learners
  4. Teacher’s relationships with the children’s parents
  5. Parents satisfaction

In response to the question of multilingual knowledge, the teacher said she is only conversant fluently in the English language only. The other language she knows slightly is Italian. In responding to the question about her experiences with the ESL pupils and parents, the teacher cited having noticed an increase in the number of those enrolling the children in the program. She stipulated that she often forms a relationship with the parent in order to get facts about their communication and establish the need of a child. However, she termed a lack of understanding of the program by the parents as a great concern. Despite that, she said that some parents are very supportive of the practices adopted in the programs. Her perception from the experience gained during her work is that several things need to be changed as well as engaging families in the programs. She suggested the need for in-service. Her relationship with the children has faced some challenges such as communication barriers at times. She argues that she is forced to make assumptions when she fails to get clear feedback from the child.

Teacher’s Pragmatic Outline Grounded on Her Responses to Interview Questions
Table 1. Teacher’s Pragmatic Outline Grounded on Her Responses to Interview Questions

Parents’ identity showed that they came from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds. One parent came from Malaysia the other one from Hong Kong. Both parents agreed that they knew their children’s activities at home. The two agreed that the schools had significantly supported their children in the programs. In response to whether the parents would be comfortable if the teaching staff spoke their native language, the two parents considered such factors as unimportant to them. Describing the aspect of teachers engaging parents at home in the program; one parent expressed her involvement by sitting the fact that the teacher provides writing and cutting materials. She also reported having received instructions on how to let her child practice while in the house. The other parent said her participation was unnecessary since the teacher felt no need since the child was at a tender age. In making recommendations for the required changes, one parent expressed her concern that the children need to be allocated more time to be with friends so that they could practice more. She believed that friends play major roles in helping their counterparts learn at a fast pace.


The research took a pragmatic approach to convey various aspects that are vital in trying to comprehend the teachers’ and parents’ perspectives concerning ESL programs for their children. Thorough interviews conducted brought various findings that the researcher aimed. The research identified various challenges that teachers face in their interactions with the children.

After evaluation of the themes, the researcher summarized the results in paragraphs as well as attached a table describing teachers’ perspectives in the facet of ESL program teaching. Five significant themes surfaced from the research: I) the types of experiences, ii) link between experiences and adjustments in teaching approaches and self-perceptions, iii) Teacher’s association with young learners, iv) Teacher’s relationships with the children’s parents and v) Parents satisfaction.

It is very true that teachers encounter major difficulties especially when they are inexperienced in the facets of cultural and linguistic diversity. For instance, during the interview, the teachers cited a clear concern about making assumptions at times particularly when she failed to get straight forward from the young children learning ESL programs. Teachers feel that parents of young learners should get involved in their children’s activities.

Teachers’ and parents’ collaboration brings out the best outcome in helping the young ones develop skills in the English language. This was brought out clearly in the study. Parents expressed their efforts to help the children learn effectively. In addition, both home and school environments contribute significantly in shaping the way young children learn the English language. Parents who talk to their children in English at home help the children practice what they are taught in school.


García, E. E. (1995). Meeting the challenge of linguistic and cultural diversity in early childhood education. New York: Teachers College Press.

Gregory, E. (1996). Making sense of a new world: learning to read in a second language. London: Paul Chapman.

Johnson, C. E., Lee, H., & Templeton, R. A. (2003). Challenges in early childhood environments: Voices from the field. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL.

Oyama, S. (1976). A sensitive period for the acquisition of a non-native phonological system.Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 5, 261- 85.

Roessingh, H. (1995). Teaching to diversity: Meaningful inclusion of ESL students in high school mainstream settings. Exceptionality Education, 5(1), 65-83.

Saracho, O. N., & Spodek, B. (1995). The future challenge of linguistic and cultural diversity in the schools. In E. E. Garcia & B. McLaughlin (Eds.), Meeting the challenge of linguistic and cultural diversity in early childhood education, Vol. 6, pp. 170-173.

Santrock, J. W. (2004). Child Development. (10th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Schaller, A., Oglesby Rocha, L., & Barshinger, D. (2006). Maternal attitudes and parent education: How immigrant mothers support their child’s education despite their own low levels of education. Early Childhood Education Journal, 34(5), 351-356.

Skuitnab-Kangas, T. (1984). Multilingualism and the education of minority children. Clevedon, U.K: Multilingual Matters.

Seidman, I. (1998). Interviewing as qualitative research: A guide for researchers in education

Tabors, P. O., (1997). One child, two languages: A guide for preschool educators of Children Learning English as a second language. Baltimore: Paul H. Brooke