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Is homework a vital part of education?

by Matthew Guida April 10, 2018
Is homework a vital part of education?

Discussing whether homework is an outdated concept, its benefits and adverse effects

As a kid, homework was often a major source of stress for me. On the other hand, I understood that it was a crucial factor in my educational development and saw it as an essential part of my everyday life. However, following the implementation of a no homework directive in November by Elizabeth Ballantyne Elementary School in Montreal West, a new debate has begun to arise in the educational system, according to CBC News.

The focus of the debate is on whether or not homework still has any use in the present-day education of young children. Elizabeth Ballantyne is one of several schools to implement a no homework policy. By removing homework, the policy focuses on giving students more time to do their work in class. Even more importantly, the policy seeks to encourage parents to spend more time reading with their kids, according to CBC News.

Michael Brown, the principal at Elizabeth Ballantyne, explained the school’s reasons for adopting such a policy. CTV News reported that Brown believes students should not be spending more time continuing their schoolwork after a six to eight-hour school day. Indeed, a  period to relax is an essential requirement for young students. According to The Ventura County Star, schools in Finland adopted a similar approach. By allowing periods of recess in between classes, students are able to properly process the material they learn in class. This approach to Finland’s educational system is a major reason why Finnish schools are recognized as some of the best institutions in the world. Additionally, other schools across Ontario and Quebec have also implemented a homework ban, according to CTV News. The same source explains that homework can lead to conflicts between parents and their kids.

Unfortunately, despite these justifications, not all parents are as enthusiastic about the ban. Most parents believe homework is an essential tool for their children. According to the non-profit organization Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), the homework debate has been ongoing since the 40s. The United States educational system increased homework after the launch of the Sputnik satellite during the late 1950s, believing their schools lacked a certain level of educational rigour, according to the same source. Also, during the 80s, scientists claimed homework had adverse effects on children’s mental development and well-being.

A longstanding belief held by those who support homework is that it contributes to helping students develop and achieve academic success. However, not all social groups benefit from doing homework, according to ASCD. A student’s socioeconomic status is a crucial factor to consider. Most students who are of poor socioeconomic status or live in a poor home environment are sometimes put at a disadvantage when compared to their peers. According to Louisiana State University’s website, poor and unstable home environments affect students on a physical, social, emotional and cognitive level that is reflected in their school work and performance at school. Other disadvantages of homework include the possibility of teachers inadvertently assigning too much homework, which contributes to students’ stress levels. In such cases, some students find it difficult, as many of them differ in terms of learning styles, which affects their ability to do homework. Furthermore, some students have an after-school schedule that doesn’t give them much time to relax, let alone do homework, according to ASCD.

One of the solutions proposed to maximize the positive impact of parental involvement in homework is applying the concept of interactive homework. According to CBC News, school staff and education experts insist that, even without homework, parents should still take the time to read and review the work they completed earlier in the day with their children.

Presently, further research is required before a definitive decision can settle this debate. Additional factors must also be considered, such as whether a lack of parental presence is beneficial during homework or not. I believe it’s important to get more input from students about how their educational experience can be improved and if abolishing homework from school curriculums could contribute to this process.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin

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