This study focuses on parents´ involvement in primary education in the marginalized areas of Guayaquil, Ecuador. In literature on education and development, parents are seen as vital actors which can contribute to educational improvement, especially in resource scarce environments. The study has a comparative research design with private and public primary schools as the contrasting cases. The rationale for this comparative aspect is the assumption that how much parents invest in education in the form of tuition fees or other financial contributions might influence their level of participation in the school. Therefore, parents´ involvement has been compared in two private fee-paying schools and three public schools, which are free of charge, in the marginalized Northwest part of Guayaquil.
Social Capital Theory is used as an analytical framework, with a discussion of relationships and networks which are brought about as a result of parents´ involvement in the school and how these can provide advantages or benefits for the students, the parents and the school itself. Findings from the study indicate that the marginalized context is a factor which necessitates involvement from the parents in the school and also cooperation between the parents and the school. Both parts (the parents and the school) will see the value of having a good relationship with each other and building social capital in the network. This is the case both in the private and the public schools.
The comparison of the findings from the private and the public schools show that one mayor difference is the extent to which the parents help out with manual labour. Payment of fees is used by the parents in the private schools as an argument for not participating in this, whereas parents in the public schools do help out with manual labour. Thus, charging parents for their children´s education is a factor which may negatively affect some types of parents´ involvement. Regarding other types of involvement, such as attendance at parent meetings, there are no clear differences between the private and the public schools. This implies that payment of fees does not necesssarily lead the parents to get more involved in school in order to make their voice heard. However, also parents in the public schools contribute with some voluntary Financial contributions. The study concludes that these contributions, together with their contributions in kind in form of manual labour, may lead the parents in the public schools to expect to have a say in school related matters. This may further positively affect the degree to which they involve themselves in the School.