A TIMSS (Trends in Math and Science Study) survey, conducted in 2007, revealed that fourth grader students in countries that set below average levels of homework were more academically successful in math and science than those in countries that set above average levels. In Japan – ranked second in the results table – only three percent of students reported a particularly heavy workload of over three hours a night while a staggering 20 percent of Dutch students – whose scores were in the international top 10 – claimed to do no homework whatsoever. This is in stark contrast to countries like Greece and Thailand, where higher workloads have done nothing to rectify lower scores.
These results are not alone in debunking the myth that homework in any way benefits the academic performance of elementary students. So why, we should ask, are policymakers and educators so hell-bent on enforcing it? In his 2006 publication The Homework Myth, prolific author and outspoken critic of the current educational system Alfie Kohn set out a well argued and evidentially attested thesis saying that the purpose of homework is twofold. Firstly it’s meant to instill an air of competitiveness in children, not only within the physical classroom, but, because of the quantitatively driven approach of policy experts, within the global classroom – against China, Singapore and Finland, for example. Secondly, homework is used as a weapon to combat adults’ inherent mistrust of children, keeping them busy so they don’t run riot. This latter suggestion may baffle belief, but a concerned parent’s response to the suggestion that homework be banned (‘we have to have homework… otherwise the kids won’t have structure and they will just come home and fool around’) attests to its current orthodoxy.
The thing about homework is that is doesn’t work. As shown by numerous studies, it brings no educational benefits, acts as a root cause of conflict between children, parents and teachers and has detrimental mental and physical effects on children that, by the fact that they’re avoidable, are absolutely inexcusable. Children are not the only ones to fear the evils of homework though. Teachers, under increasing amounts of pressure to meet targets, cover curricula and achieve grades, are incentivized to set more and more of it and grade more and more of it; something that wouldn’t be so bad if we weren’t so aware of its utter pointlessness.
The most important problem, however, is that homework is more closely associated with punishment than with pleasure. Made to be completed during time that should be spent engaging in creative, playful and recreational pursuits, homework doesn’t even have the courtesy to be enjoyable by nature – as is completely apparent from my students’ faces when I fulfill my duties to the school in setting it for them. And such truth is not surprising when you consider that for homework to be enjoyable, it would have to be everything it’s not: optional instead of mandatory, creative rather than prescribed and objectively appreciated instead of subjectively assessed. Improvement to our children’s education, until we redefine what our definition of education really is, can only be achieved through one thing, its removal.
5 Reasons Kids Need Homework and 5 Reasons They Don't
The benefits of homework has been debated by teachers and parents for years as the very word evokes very negative connotations to every involved, students, parents and teachers. Although many people think of homework as doing more harm than good by causing copious amounts of unnecessary stress to everyone, others believe that it has great advantages for children by encouraging them to think more independently outside the classroom.
The first benefit of homework is that it allows students and teachers to work more closely together. They can discuss their assignments or any problems that they are having with parts of their textbooks, before or after classes.
The second benefit is that it can bring families closer together as students may ask their parents or siblings for help on their homework. Not only will this help the students get a better understanding of their work with any parts they are stuck on, it will also allow parents to get more involved in their child's educational life.
Thirdly, doing homework will prepare students for the big end tests. If a child does poorly on an assignment then they will learn what is necessary to do well on the next test without being punished. It also provides students with the opportunity to practice at what it takes to be successful in school. Like they say, practice makes perfect.
Doing homework is also a great way to develop responsibilities. By being assigned work one day and knowing that it has to be done by the next day, they will develop a sense of punctuality by turning their work in on time.
And finally it allows parents to see how their children are being educated and they can develop a better idea of how they can help their child. However, some parents, students and even some teachers feel that after 7-8 hours of lessons in school, it is unfair to expect students to come home and work for another three hours.
The Potential Harm
The first reason that children should not be given homework is that they need time to relax and take their minds off work. The pressure of having to complete homework every night is quite daunting for most children and they need time to refresh their minds and bodies.
Secondly, it reduces the amount of time that children could be spending with their families. Family time is especially important to a growing child and without it social problems can crop up and a family unit can be compromised by a lack of time being spent together.
Thirdly, homework can cause conflict between children and parents when the parent wants to the child to do their homework but meets resistance from the student to do an overwhelming task.
Too much homework can encourage cheating because children end up copying off one another in an attempt to finish all their assignments. They then end up being rewarded for cheating which doesn't benefit them at all.
And finally, a lot of teachers don't often have the time to grade papers properly as they are too busy with designing lesson plans and consulting teaching resources in order to just manage lessons. So by the time students are getting their papers back, the class has moved on to a new topic.