Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Education and International Services


Curriculum and Instruction PhD

First Advisor

Larry Burton

Second Advisor

Elvin Gabriel

Third Advisor

Sharon Pittman



Studies of Parental Involvement at the secondary school level have consistently shown to improve student-learning outcomes. Parents who invest money in children’s education want to see their children matriculate to higher education. Unfortunately, many private schools offer poor quality education. Students’ achievement in Malawi secondary schools requires the participation of each stakeholder. The purpose of this study therefore was threefold: to explore the nature of Parental Involvement in children’s education, to determine types of involvement, and to examine parents’ and educators’ attitudes towards Parental Involvement. The study participants came from two Malawian private secondary schools in Africa.


This study used a descriptive multisite case study design, a qualitative approach for gathering information from 90 participants comprised of three proprietors, six administrators, 19 teachers and 62 parents. Data collection methods included interviews, focus groups, observation, open-ended questionnaires and document analysis. Grounded theory, an inductive methodology that uses constant comparative data analysis process, was used to make generalizations and discover emergent themes from the data. Finally, a cross-case analysis was conducted to explore similarities and differences across the cases.


The cross-case analysis portrayed a package of contrasting ideologies held by proprietors, educators and parents which formed the bedrock of the type of partnership that existed between parents and educators. These ideological influences resulted in the formation of perspectives and attitudes, which in turn translated into participants’ practices. However, because of their position and ideological dispositions, the proprietors exerted greater influence on the type of Parental Involvement model, policies and practices at the schools. While in one school, the educators held a deficit thinking ideology against parents resulting in implementing an Alienation Parental Involvement model, the other school valued parents’ contributions and sought to collaborate with them, thus it implemented an Alliance Parental Involvement Model.

In addition, data analysis indicated that all parents in this study were involved in their children’s education at different levels. Academic socialization (discussions pertaining to children’s schooling experiences and conversations about parents’ aspirations and expectations) was the most significant home-based Parental Involvement strategy. A significant but not surprising finding was the dissimilar influences of education and traditional values on parents’ support of their girls. Notwithstanding, the evidence also suggests that some parents considered their financial investment as the most meaningful involvement in children’s education because secondary education in Malawi is not free.


From the data analysis, a theory of Ideological Differentiation of Parental Involvement in Malawi was developed. This theory contributes to literature and provides an analytical framework for viewing Parental Involvement in private schools in Malawi. In addition, recommendations have been developed from this study with the intention of improving Parental Involvement in the two private secondary schools. Further studies however, are recommended to determine whether the findings and the theory apply to other environments in Malawi.

Subject Area

Education, Secondary--Parent participation, Education, Secondary--Malawi