Homework has long been a staple of the educational system, seen as a way to reinforce classroom learning and promote academic success. However, in recent years, there has been a growing movement advocating for the abolition of homework, particularly for elementary and middle school students. Both parents and teachers argue that it is a tedious, outdated practice that does more harm than good and that it’s time to re-evaluate its role in promoting student learning. Let’s explore some of the key arguments made in support of banning homework.
Children already have a full-time job
Students already spend most of their waking hours in school with classes beginning earlier and earlier every year and as they advance through the grades. Piling on homework is just unreasonable and borderline wicked. Unreasonable, because, what are you hoping they will somehow learn that they were unable to learn during the day? And wicked because come on, even adults with decent jobs don’t work upwards of 8-12 hours a day and then take their work home with them. Someone has even suggested that homework is used to prepare students to accept being overworked and saddled with overtime when they eventually become working adults.
Negatively affects health
Homework has deleterious effects on children’s physical and mental health. All it does is stress children out. One Stanford study found that for 56% of students, assignments are a significant source of stress. Furthermore, 80% of students exhibit stress-related symptoms including headaches, exhaustion, sleep deprivation, weight loss, depression and stomach issues. Irregular sleep patterns and sleep deprivation further compromise the physical and mental health of students.
Social and family life
Childhood and adolescence are peak times to make friends and learn how to relate with others. Most children come from school and then immediately get into doing their homework and by the time they’re done, it’s dark outside meaning it’s time for children to go home. Increased time spent on homework means decreased time spent on communal activities with friends and even family. After-school hours that would otherwise be spent with family are spent doing assignments limiting meaningful interactions with family members.
No ’Me’ time
The monopoly that school and the education system have on children essentially suggests that the child’s waking hours are not ever theirs to use as they please. Children laden with homework have no time to engage in extracurricular activities or hobbies that interest them outside of school. This is especially worse for students whose hobbies are not numbered among those the school narrowly considers worthwhile. It teaches students to prioritize only what the school considers important and does not serve their developmental needs. Children with free time to do what they want are also more likely to learn new things and become well-rounded individuals, those saddled with assignments don’t. After-school assignments take away children’s freedom to be themselves and use their after-school hours as they please. It teaches them the dangerous lesson that their lives are not their own.
Favours the few
France’s president, François Hollande proposed the banning of homework because it is an anti-egalitarian instrument that benefits children from wealthy backgrounds whose parents can help them with assignments and whose homes are conducive environments for learning. Not all students have access to resources like books and the internet or parents who can fact-check their assignments. This only widens the wealth gap between high-performing students who have all the resources versus poorer students who don’t.
No impact on academic performance
Homework is often pointless and instead of improving performance, actually diminishes it. Students who didn’t understand the lesson in class get no value from the assignment. It’s worse when teachers use assignments as a way to get through the material they couldn’t get to in class. Assignments are not tailored to meet students’ needs just to get through some arbitrary curriculum. It is completely unfair to ask students to complete homework on a topic that has not been taught in class.
Studies show that homework in primary school has no correlation with classroom performance whatsoever. Another study found that students who already perform well do worse on exams when they’re given a higher volume of assignments. Assignments could actually further diminish performance because they lower students’ enthusiasm for school. One book actually posits that assignments have never been about improving children’s performance, rather it’s always been a way to keep children busy fueled by adults’ distrust of children.
Bad for teachers
Homework is not just bad for students, it’s also bad for teachers. Teachers are forced to work overtime grading assignments with many of them experiencing burnout as a result of having to deal with classwork and assignments. Teachers deal with too much stress already to pile on more especially when the added work has no added benefit for students.
It’s been done successfully
Schools in Finland either give minimal homework or none at all and their education system is ranked among the best in the world. They also have short school hours with school beginning between 8-9 a.m. and ending between 1-2 p.m. Their system prioritizes learning while in school and lets students unwind and pursue their personal interests once the school day is over.
Homework does not work so it’s time for it to go.
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