In an era when many schoolchildren are “waiting for superman” to save them from the inadequacies of the education system, some people seem to think that students are working too hard.
The New York Times recently wrote an article detailing one New Jersey school district’s impending decision to join several other schools across the country in reducing the amount of homework assigned to students. The article suggests ten minutes of homework per night beginning with first graders and increasing at ten minute increments for each successive grade level, with no homework on weekends, school holidays, or extended breaks.
The argument is that young students are being overworked and overwhelmed at the expense of their social development and the carefree lifestyle that is supposed to be associated with childhood. Some educational experts also believe that too much homework can hinder, rather than help, students’ learning experiences. According to the research cited on www.stophomework.com, a website created by Sara Bennett who co-wrote the book The Case Against Homework: How Homework is Hurting Our Children and What We Can Do About It, in countries like Greece and Thailand students are assigned a lot of homework and perform worse on “achievement tests” in comparison to places like Japan and Denmark where students receive little homework and perform better on these tests.
Studies also show that students are more sedentary, getting less sleep, and reporting more experiences of anxiety than schoolchildren in the past. All of these occurrences are being at least partially attributed to increased amounts of homework.
But there’s another side. While homework can sometimes be mechanical, excessive, and lack an obvious objective, one cannot deny some benefits. How many people would have learned their multiplication tables without at least some rote memorization or done those math worksheets they hated so much if they weren’t required?
As a child, whenever I complained about my homework, my mother always said that she had her job and that school was mine. Stressed or not, it is the only real responsibility many children have.
Maybe students shouldn’t have to spend their entire evening on these tasks, but how much can they really accomplish in ten minutes? No student wants to spend his or her entire winter break doing homework, but how much information will be retained if no work has been done in the interim?
Some students don’t do the three hours of homework they are assigned, so what portion of their reduced assignments will they do? Also, just because students are doing less homework doesn’t mean that they are sleeping more or being more physically active. Would we prefer students spend hours playing Call of Duty or reading Call of the Wild?
Homework time cannot be streamlined any more than student performance can. Rather than focusing on time quantity, education officials should focus on the quality of homework assignments in order to ensure that students are practicing skills that address their individual needs in the most beneficial manner possible, no matter how long it takes.
This article is also featured on the HOPE Scholarship blog.