The truth is, there is more than meets the eye when it comes to homework. Does more homework actually mean more learning?
It is vital that we scrutinise the issue for the sake of students, teachers, parents and the education community. We may discover that its impact on children is the opposite of what we have been led to believe.
We risk upsetting the apple cart, but concern for our children’s health, mental wellbeing and development should override any fear of challenging the status quo.
How often have we seen or heard of schoolchildren doing homework until their bedtime?
Ask any schoolgoing child, and he will tell you that it is not unusual to spend three to four hours on homework daily.
Struggling to finish the mountain of homework diligently dished out by teachers is something that is all too common today. Even a Year One pupil is not spared the affliction.
But, does the amount of time spent on homework translate into skills and knowledge acquisition, sharpen thinking skills or develop a love for learning?
These are questions that require clarification. In the context of teaching and learning in national schools, homework is an accepted phenomenon — the more, the better, and no questions asked.
To mete out homework every day as if meting out punishment to an errant child has become a tradition. It has to be done, as otherwise, teachers are seen to be neglecting this “important” duty.
And, many parents expect — no, demand — that more homework be given to keep their children occupied.
Everyone believes that the more homework a child is given, the more learning will take place. This is a misconception, but it is so entrenched in our education system that everyone swears by it.
The purpose of homework is to reinforce the learning that takes place in school or prepare children for forthcoming lessons, which, in theory, sounds ideal.
But, research on homework has indicated otherwise. Apparently, too much is detrimental to children.
In a study on California students, Stanford researcher Denise Pope found that more than two hours spent daily on homework “hinders learning, full engagement and wellbeing”, and not to mention, leads to “more stress, physical health problems, a lack of balance and even alienation from society”.
Researchers at Duke University, who conducted more than 60 studies on homework, concluded that “too much homework could be counterproductive”.
Alfie Kohn, a principal who wrote about the impact of homework in his book, The Homework Myth, said he believed that the “cons overwhelmingly outweigh the pros”.
He argued that homework could “create family conflict, reduce the quality of life through boredom, and destroy curiosity and the love of learning”, and reduced the time that could be spent on “independent study, and extracurricular, family and social activities”, which were crucial for child development.
Such research debunks the belief that homework equates learning. The bottom line is that homework causes more harm than good.
Science tells us that when a solution reaches its saturation point, it is unable to absorb or assimilate any substance. Similarly, when a child is mentally saturated, to add more to this “saturation” is pointless.
When mental fatigue sets in, the whole body suffers.
A child needs time to process and digest the learning that has taken place in school, and he is unable to do so if he is rushing to complete his homework before bedtime.
Very likely, homework is done in a robotic fashion and the answers to exercises are lifted from the textbook. This, I fear, is memorisation and rote learning.
Isn’t it something that we are trying to move away from?
Children must be given time to think, analyse and reflect if our aim is to develop a thinking society.
Teachers, recognise that you put your charges at risk by giving them tonnes of homework. The hidden repercussions will translate into frustration for both students and teachers.
Your good intentions may backfire. Parents, banish the idea that more homework will make your children geniuses. Spend time interacting with them in other ways.
If homework has to be given at all, schools should prepare a schedule that allocates homework for not more than two subjects per day.
This way, the five days of the school week will cover all subjects in the curriculum without burdening children. Ensure that the tasks are focused, manageable and attainable.
Do not allow the pursuit of academic excellence and As to make us forget our priorities.
If any education administrator, principal or teacher is reading this, I implore you to rethink the role of homework in the learning process and understand the harm it can do when given in excess.
Unwittingly, you may stunt a child’s growth. In the context of homework, less is more. Sandra Rajoo, Ipoh, Perak The NST Opinion You Write 10 June 2016 @ 11:01 AM