Chats over dinner 'give students school boost'

Local | Amy Nip 16 Feb 2017

Students who have better academic performance tend to dine and discuss school life with their parents more often than those who had average scores, according to Chinese University research.

The university's EdDataX Research Centre collected the academic results of 15,000 students of Primary Three, Primary Six and Secondary Three who took part in the Territory-wide System Assessment in June 2015. It also surveyed the students and their parents.

The study found that students who often dined and discussed school life with their parents performed "slightly to moderately" better than those who did it less.

In particular, Primary Three students who engaged in more discussions with their parents over their English performance were found to have higher English proficiency.

More frequent parent-child chats were particularly helpful in boosting the academic performance of Primary Three students, but not those in the other grades.

Quality and content of chats, rather than frequency, appeared to matter more for the more senior students.

To ensure that other factors such as parents' income levels and education backgrounds would not affect the results, the researchers compared students of similar socioeconomic status and got similar results.

The researchers explained that students with good academic results are also the ones who dined and talked more with their parents. But it did not prove that dining and talking more with parents caused the students to perform better academically.

The team, however, said it explored different possible variables such as socioeconomic status and concluded that more time with parents would help.

The study also found most parents (85 percent) dined with their children every day, although the percentage of parents who chatted with their children over dinner was not as high.

Sixty-four percent of parents chatted with the children almost every day, while 27 percent did it once or twice a week. Up to one-fifth did it less than once a week. It was found that parents and children had different definitions for chat. While parents include small talk as chats, children may not see it the same way.

"Parents would consider 'Oh you are back! Have you finished your homework?' as chatting. But children don't think so," said Florrie Ng Fei-yin, associate professor in the department of educational psychology.

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