Ask Teacher Owewre: Does bulk holiday homework achieve its purpose?

Tuesday June 12 2018

Paul Owere

Paul Owere 

Schools have closed and children are at home but unfortunately some are just too busy with school work that you can hardly notice a difference including those in their first year in Primary school. This is not to mention a Four-year-old pre-scholar who returned home with several pages of home work which is supposed to be done during the mid-year break. The question that many continue to struggle with is the purpose and the right age when homework should be assigned to pupils. The debate around holiday homework has raged for years and it’s a topic which divides teachers, parents and pupils alike.

Recently, the discussion has been brought to the fore by a number of schools and parents who have declared that they would not issue homework.

As a teacher and a parent my view is that homework is totally unnecessary for early primary school pupils because at that age they barely understand why their holiday is being inconvenienced. However, as many will agree, I will concede that it is necessary when students reach their crucial exam years.

At that stage homework assignments serve a purpose; they provide opportunities for students to develop valuable skills in independent research, academic citing, and the fundamental principles of academic honesty.

Ultimately each school, teacher and parent will draw their own line in the sand when determining the correct age for pupils to be given homework; but discussions over homework should not stop there. What must be asked is the value homework provides to students and, in my opinion, that debate should be based on the following questions.

Is that homework beneficial for the student’s personal education goals? Will homework assignments help to develop the student’s independent learning skills? How can educators guard against placing undue pressure on children and help parents support their child’s learning?

Today, league tables and exam results have created a mechanistic education system. Schools, pupils and teachers are too often focused on achieving scores and targets.

In my view, this underpins the homework debate, and it completely negates the truest goal of education, which is to inspire and nurture a student’s love for learning.

For parents, when it comes to homework, there is a fine line between helping your children and doing the work for them.

Just as teachers should avoid placing unwarranted pressure on their pipils, parents should appreciate that by doing the work for them, they are in fact hindering their child’s ability to think independently.

Homework becomes an exercise in futility if children aren’t allowed to take charge of their own learning.

Instead, parents should put their efforts into providing an environment which helps to instill a real desire to learn.

As I have stated on many occassions, there will always be times, such as exam preparation, when parents and teachers need to ensure students are studying at home.

The issue at hand isn’t whether students should work at home, it’s whether homework should be routinely assigned?

If schools are teaching correctly and engaging students, the majority of homework becomes irrelevant.

In my experience, engaged students regardless of age will, on their own initiative, actively seek to advance their knowledge and learning outside of school.

In such cases the teacher and parent roles should then act to support this drive in whatever way they can.