Imagine a World with No More Homework

Family Matters on 11.19.12
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Photo: mrstg / Creative Commons

The French President François Hollande has announced a nation-wide ban on all homework, according to this article in the Globe and Mail newspaper. It is part of a series of reforms on the education system in France, including increasing the number of teachers, reducing the number of students held back each year, incentives for teachers to work in low-income areas, and the popular homework ban. “Work should be done at school rather than at home,” Hollande said, pointing out that the homework creates a disadvantage for kids who don’t get as much support or help when they’re working on projects at home.

There has been much research on the efficacy of homework. It seems to help older children, depending on the amount of time and effort put into the homework, the type of assignments, and the level of conflict at home in getting it done. Younger children between kindergarten and grade eight, according to research cited by the Alberta Teacher’s Association, usually do not benefit from homework, unless they are struggling to keep up with the rest of the class or they must prepare for a test. On the other hand, Alfi Kohn, a vocal American critic of homework, argues that there is no connection between time spent on homework and academic achievement.

I think an interesting debate has been triggered by President Hollande’s announcement. I believe that homework can teach a teenager accountability, independence, and good time management, but getting to that point of self-sufficiency paired with academic success requires guidance from both attentive teachers and parents. My years of homeschooling were, in a way, one giant homework project, and nothing prepared me better for university than learning to work on my own. Overloading kids, especially young ones, with a suffocating load of homework is not a great idea. Kids and teenagers both need time and space away from school in order to develop interests and hobbies, have physical activity, interact with family and friends, and just play, because those elements of education are just as important as formal classroom time in terms of personal development.

Hopefully a healthy balance can be found – one that doesn’t close the door completely on formal learning after-hours, as Hollande’s homework ban does, yet doesn’t inundate kids with demoralizing amounts of work after a long day, as happens too often in North America.

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