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Homework: love it or loathe it?

IB parents share their thoughts with IB World magazine in the final article in the series

“Ask a parent to help”: does this harmless instruction given by teachers to students induce a tinge of panic in parents?

Many parents have a complicated relationship with homework, especially as children progress through school and workloads increase. On the one hand, they appreciate the benefits – improves memory, encourages independence and develops positive study skills – but on the other, many loathe how homework encroaches on valuable family time and the stress it brings.

Nearly two thirds of parents said they help their children with their work, in a 2014 UK study of 2,000 parents. Of course parents want children to succeed, and it can offer ideal bonding time, but one in six parents also admitted to regularly doing all of their child’s homework.

Aside from academic dishonesty, this highlights a separate issue. Too much homework, or work that is too difficult, means students have to lean heavily on parents.

Late last year, parents in Spain took a stand against “excessive” homework. Thousands of parents went on strike against state schools in November and, as a consequence, students from 12,000 schools refused to do any homework at weekends for the whole of November.

The protest was called by the Spanish Alliance of Parents’ Associations (CEAPA), which argued that homework was harming children’s education and families’ quality of life.

Students in Spain receive 6.5 hours of homework a week, compared with an average of 4.9 in 38 other countries, according to the PISA study, by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Too much homework also causes family conflict, with one in 20 parents admitting to arguing over their child’s schoolwork at an average rate of three times a month. In addition, many parents resent having to play the role of enforcer and worry that they will be criticized either for not being involved enough with the homework or for becoming too involved, according to researcher and lecturer Alfie Kohn.

But, on the contrary, plenty of parents take issue with ‘no-homework’ policies, which are fast becoming the latest trend in education. Parents worry their child will lose a potential academic advantage and that a lack of work outside of school hours will negatively impact future prospects.

Some opponents of such policies have deemed them “economically and racially insensitive,” claiming that they favour families who have the time and means to provide additional workbooks and a varied programme of extra-curricular activities that can support their child’s learning.

Opinions are split. Some parents want more homework; others want less; and the rest prefer none at all. IB parents share their thoughts with IB World magazine:

Homework is teaching our children how to play a game,” says Lauren Sherril

“Aside from regular reading, I really struggle with making my children sit down for lengthy periods of time to continue schoolwork, after a long day at school.

Homework can teach children to learn discipline, but I also feel that there are other ways to learn this. The main thing I feel homework is teaching our children is how to play a game. In some situations in life, you have to do something just because it’s required. Even if it doesn’t make sense. It’s obvious the teachers at my sons’ school don’t have the time or desire to actually grade homework, just as the students don’t have time to do the work. It just feels like one big game. 

“I would be thrilled with a ‘no homework’ policy. The amazing teachers are reaching these children and giving them such a great academic experience. They are getting such a wonderful education that I do not feel they would fall behind without any homework. I would love to see the school move to a ‘no homework’ policy so our children can rest, play outside, play music, etc, after school.”

As adults when we finish work, the last thing we want to do is spend our entire evening continuing to work. It’s important for children to be able to rest their minds to prepare for the next school day. I truly believe every teacher at my boys’ school would say the same thing, and are only assigning homework because it’s policy.” 

“Sometimes, we spend three hours doing research work for my daughter’s homework activities,” says Manisha Agrawal

I think six-year-olds should get minimal homework as this helps parents become aware of their children’s performance. But it should not be a project or research type of homework, which requires a parent’s involvement. It should be less time consuming.

“Sometimes, we spend three hours doing research work for my daughter’s homework activities.

However, I would be worried if my child’s school enforced a no-homework policy. Instead, the school could replace homework with assessments to get a real picture of the children’s performance.”

“Homework is a must,” says Smriti Kaul

Homework is an integral part of education. It is a must. My son gets just enough homework.

“It’s a very important part of any curriculum because it helps children revise classwork at home. It also helps parents understand what is their child is learning in school.

Traditional homework should change, and it should become more practical- and project-based, which could include more research work. In the process, children learn many more elaborate things and their knowledge expands.

“I would not favour a ‘no homework’ policy because homework lets me know how my son is doing academically. It also, more importantly, helps him practice and keep in touch with his class curriculum.”

 With homework, children can develop a habit of study and learning,” says Shilpi Jain

“I think the homework my son receives is just right. It enhances learning and revision, and allows parents to be involved. It adds to the overall development of children.

Regular homework inculcates the habit of revision and retention. With homework, children can develop a habit of study and learning.”

Tell us what you think.

To read the other articles in the series, click on the links below: