The homework debate: who is right?

A typical situation for many families in the evening: children are watching TV and hear a strict parent’s question: “Have you done your homework?”

Often the issue of homework becomes a number one topic for discussion at the parents' meetings, where many of them complain that homework takes too much time.

The homework debate has become stumbling-block at many educational institutions, scientific conferences and ministry meetings.

Someone even calculated that if the student performs absolutely all homework assigned at school, he will be doing it all day long till the late night without having breaks for meals and other activities. Meanwhile, the student needs to rest and develop physically that is to attend sports sections or just spend time outdoors at least several hours per day.

However, there is another point of view, which says that homework is a necessary supplement to a good lesson because only with the unity of the long-term and extracurricular work students can achieve academic progress and improve their knowledge and skills on a particular subject.

The debate about the need for homework remains relevant for many centuries. And what do they think about the number and quality of homework in the modern world? What to do in such a situation? How to make the right choice taking into account the interests and wishes of students and make children be healthy physically and mentally developed? Where is the balance between the two controversial opinions on whether to assign homework at schools and universities or not? Let’s find out what do professionals think on this issue?

Homework in the world’s practice

The question of homework is a pressing challenge for many years. There are many diverse opinions on the homework issue as well as lots of approaches to the solution of the homework problem I many countries. Here is a brief overview of how different states feel this educational phenomenon:
  • The UK: The Association of teachers and lecturers of the UK urged the government to cancel homework in the primary schools to avoid unnecessary stress that young learners experience every time they are given homework tasks.
  • France: In France, where there is homework in a primary school, it is proposed to cancel it for all students.
  • China: There is no homework at some Chinese schools. However, most of them do assign tasks to complete at home. For Chinese teachers, it is no problem to follow the curriculum as the Chinese academic year lasts over 10 months, 6 days a week that allows the teacher to give all material in a class.
  • Norway: Norway pediatricians give an emphatic denial to homework saying that children should play more instead of doing endless exercises at home. They warn the teacher not to abuse by assigning homework to all kinds of students claiming that homework is a violation of human rights. They state that homework encroaches on the child's free time that leads to lots of stress and even nervous breakdowns among many school goers.
  • Other European countries: In Europe, the popular opinion is that the kids need 20 minutes of extra classes and older students need half an hour a day to complete their homework – and no more!

However, there are those who support homework, believing that without it, the level of academic performance may badly reduce.

  • Finland: Today, the Finnish education system is often taken as an example, where learning is organized in the form of a game, and there is practically no homework as well as grades and exams.
  • Japan: According to statistics, the busiest students are at Japanese schools that have to pass the exam when entering the 1st class. Japanese primary school rarely has more than 4 lessons a day and no homework, but the children receive quite extensive tasks during the holidays.
  • The U.S.: In the United States home tasks have been considered a burden for a long time. Household chores were more important for the U.S. parents compared to the academic duties of their children. One day California even banned homework at school for 8-the grade.

In parallel, the media was discussing the harm of homework that has a negative impact on children’s health and mental condition. In the 50s of the last century, the attitude to education and the homework load at school changed, along with this, the amount of household work for children increased.

Today the amount of homework in America continues to grow; however, they started to assign more research or creative tasks.

  • Italy: An interesting attitude to homework in primary school is offered in Italy. Parents can choose whether to leave the child at school for half a day or for the whole day so that they can do all their homework in the classroom. But if classes finish at 13: 00, the children have to study at home and have no homework at weekends. The ones who stay in school until 16:30 do homework in class and get homework for the weekend that often triggers parental protests.

Scientific facts about homework impacts

Gerald K. LeTendre together with his colleagues studied how the amount of homework in schools in different countries is reflected on the level of education and academic performance of schoolchildren. Here are the most important themes from the scientist's article in the Washington Post:
  • Children from the countries with underdeveloped economies and social inequality get the largest amount of homework. However, there is no evidence that it has a positive impact on their academic performance and the level of knowledge.
  • The vast majority of parents believe that children who from the early age do homework get used to discipline and independence and then have better achievements at school and in life.
  • Moreover, scientists have found that due to a large number of tasks there appear more conflicts between parents and children. Homework in such cases causes only negative emotions and does not lead to academic success.
  • It has been scientifically proven that even 30 minutes of homework per day for primary school students combined with other learning activities and stress can have a negative impact. According to Chinese researchers, two hours a day spent on homework will certainly lead to sleep disturbance and stress. They also claim that when teachers think how much homework to assign they have to take into account such criteria as the age of students, their cultural and social background, and family habits.
  • Several years ago, French ex-President Francois Hollande proposed to ban all homework, because in his opinion, it can lead to the destruction of liberal tendencies in society. The researchers confirm homework has a serious impact on students, but they disagree with Hollande saying that it is that homework can become a source of class inequality and enmity.
  • TIMSS ratings that are held once in five tears assess the knowledge of certain subjects and the general level of education and destroy a number of myths. For example, Asian countries such as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan have the highest math scores in the world, but their homework is less than the world average. In the Netherlands, one in five fourth-graders does not do homework at all, but this does not prevent the Dutch students to enter the top 10 Maths colleges in the world. American students are somewhere in the middle of the overall rating.

The most useful advice that the researcher gives to teachers is to find an individual approach to homework taking into account age, family situation, interests, the need to develop a certain skill in each particular student.

And only then will the school can benefit by assigning tasks for home.

Finding the way out: a balanced approach

Of course, the problem of homework is not new. The homework debate on this issue between teachers and parent has been going on for ages. There have always been both supporters and opponents of the banning of homework. However, there are teachers and parents who are looking for a real alternative, a new solution to the old problem. All of them are convinced that homework should not be categorically canceled, it must be properly organized.

It often happens that the teacher simply does not think about the variety of functions of homework, and does not evaluate their role and importance in the education. He keeps on assigning long paragraphs, rules, exercises being deeply convinced that the best saying “The more you revise or repeat, the better you remember and the more you know” is an absolute truth. And if so, asking to do a little more homework is not as bad as it may seem. However, this approach may push the student away who would say "Why should I start doing the homework, if anyway I am not able to complete it on time?”

On the contrary, very responsible children trying to do everything will get exhausted doing their homework until late night. And if they cannot cope with numerous tasks they will get stressed. This dispute can be endless.

How to help students overcome their homework stress

Therefore, the best way out is to help the children cope with this work, especially in primary school. To do this, parents and teachers should follow simple but effective rules that will help make the process of homework less tedious:
  • Let the child determine the time when it is convenient for him to do homework – as it is more difficult to break your own rules. Of course, parents should set the time frame, for example, homework must be done before 8 PM.
  • Comfortable workplace also allows children to quickly tune in to the educational mood.
  • It is good if a child starts doing homework in a good mood. so before studying, he must have a rest and good meal.
  • A short walk before classes or even a short sleep will be good for all students as they reduce stress and help to relax after studies at school.
  • Also, teachers recommend determining the order of tasks. a student may start with an easy task and proceed with the difficult one or vice versa.
  • The main rule is not to turn homework into a punishment and not to blame for mistakes. Errors are an integral part of the learning process.

Doing homework is a hard job that requires patience and self-discipline, and it is unlikely that the child will want to work if you shout or hurt him with offensive words. Therefore, parents should treat homework seriously and help their children in any difficult situation to let them know that they are not alone in this tough academic world. Yes, homework for responsible parents is also a work.

It goes without saying that a child must be taught to work independently which is the only effective way of getting knowledge. However, this should be done gradually. First, you should do homework together, and then support children explaining some obscure moments or discussing what has been learned. In this case, homework will not turn into stress and a hated burden.

With or without homework, studying is a huge job that can be completed successfully by united efforts work of a teacher, student, and parents. So once your child gets another home assignment you and he are to realize the fact that learning should be interesting and not scary.

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