Should Homework be Banned in Schools?
Education,  Educational Tips and Advice,  Opinion

Should Homework be Banned in Schools?

Should Homework be Banned in Schools

Most of us were brought up in a community were homework is considered a necessary part of school-based education. However after listening to many different points of view one gets to wonder, "But is homework actually useful? Does it help students in any way?"

For such a simple question, there is no clear cut answer. That question is part of a hot debate that has been raging for decades. Part of the problem is that educators themselves disagree on how much (if any) homework is too much for students. Moreover, parents are active on both sides of the debate, some wishing their children would get less or no homework, while others worry their children aren’t getting enough homework.

Some parents and educators argue that homework can cause students to feel stressed or anxious and can cut into family time at home. On the other hand some educators and parents believe homework plays a vital role in reinforcing classroom learning.

There might be no clear cut answer yet to this debate but lets try to formulate an answer by delving into what we know about homework. As common sense suggests, the benefits of homework should obviously depend on how old the student is, what kind of homework is given, and how much. So let us start by looking at how much homework is being given to students these days as compared to the previous decades.

Are students getting more homework than they used to?

Absolutely yes. Studies show that the average teenage student now spends about twice as much time on homework as did teenagers in the 1990s.

Back in the 1900s, the anti-homework movement gained so much traction that California outlawed homework for all grades below high school. The movement based its arguments on the fact that homework could actually be harmful to a child’s health as it creates too much unnecessary stress. However, in the 1950s, the Soviet Union beat the Americans in the space race by launching Sputnik as the first ever artificial space satellite. That, coupled to a lot other scientific discoveries of that time convinced American educators that the lack of homework was causing American students to lag behind other nations. The solution seemed all too simple, "give them more homework."

Though the increased amount of homework sparked hot debates among educators, the 21st century showed a marked trend toward more homework. So as the amount of homework increase one wonders, "does homework lead to improved achievement?’

Does homework lead to improved achievement?

In my own experience as a teacher I can say the answer to that question is not a simple yes or no, it depends on a lot of factors. For example, I realised that the impact of homework on a student is somewhat proportional to the age of the student. High school students tend to do well with more homework, whilst for primary school students the benefits are unnoticeable.

Infact, some studies show that in primary school, there is no clear link between homework and academic achievement. This might come as a shock to most parents who assume that doing homework at that age helps their children get better grades. However, it is still difficult to judge because different types of homework have different effects depending on their goals.


Does the effect of homework depend on its type?

Most parents don’t care on what kind of homework their children are getting, as long as they look busy at home. This also extends to educators, as most of them seem to have different ideas about what the goal of homework should be. This leads to different teachers giving different kinds of homework for different goals instead of having a standardized approach.

For example, some educators feel that the purpose of homework is to reinforce concepts a child learns that day at school whilst others feel that homework is a good study habits designed to make a student love education. As a result, one teacher will give students homework based on the areas covered in class whilst the other will give homework that is irrespective of what has been covered in class.

There is limited research into the effects of the quality of homework, most experts agree that homework should be used a way of reinforcing what students learnt at school.

Is homework really effective these days?

Researchers at Rutgers University published a study that answers this question. They measured student performance on homework and in exams over the course of eleven years.

The most interesting part about the results of this study it seems to show that as smartphones became more ubiquitous, homework became less effective.

Homework and smartphones might seem unrelated but here is the link. Most students now use smartphones to help them complete homework, in the name of research, and get good grades in their assignments. However, smartphones are not allowed in exam halls and hence the big dip in performance when it came to exams. As a result their good grades in homework assignments didn’t correlate to their poor performance in exams.

Another interesting trend the study showed is that students who didn’t have internet access to help them with their homework actually performed better on exams.

What this study showed is not the problem with homework but a problem with the way we learn. Homework is supposed to exercise the brain and it’s important for the brain to generate an answer. It doesn’t matter if that answer is incorrect. The process of being corrected later helps the brain to retain the information.

Now come the problem with smartphones and internet. If you look up the answer to your homework online and simply write it down, there is a great chance are you won’t actually remember the answer because the brain didn’t take part in formulating the answer. You won’t be able to reproduce it under exam conditions.

The results of this study might mislead people into thinking that homework has become less effective when yet we have actually homework could become useless if students use their smartphones to help them complete it. Its not only about homework but how we are doing it.

Can homework help with lost learning time?

Some educators believe that if homework is carefully designed, it can be very effective in reinforcing and advancing what students are learning in class. This is especially important now that students are spending less time in the class and more time at home because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The lockdowns created a lot of pressure for students to catch up, and assigning additional work to be completed at home could be one way to relieve the pressure.

Benefits of homework

Educators and parents who feel homework is important argue that homework:

  • Creates good study habits because it teaches students to work hard to achieve their goals.
  • Helps students understand topics better when used to reinforce the concepts that students learned in the classroom.
  • Leads to long-term higher academic achievement.
  • Allows parents to be involved in a child’s academic life when they help their children with homework.

Drawbacks of homework

People who are against homework argue that it:

  • Creates family stress as parents end up arguing with their children about getting homework done and about how it should be done.
  • Takes away time for other important activities such as family bonding, and spontaneous unscheduled play.
  • Leads to more academic stress and anxiety.
  • Doesn’t lead to a marked increased academic achievement.

Conclusion

The debate surrounding homework has been raging for decades and will likely continue for decades to come. There is need for more research that yields empirical results needed to determine what types and amounts of homework are most effective in helping students learn.

The academic benefits of homework are more obvious in high school than in primary school, and therefore the amount of homework given at respective level should reflect that. As a result, homework reform is certainly long overdue.

Homework should be clearly related to what students are learning in class so that it works as a way of reinforced learning which is proven to be effective.

Parents should play a part in monitoring their children so that they shouldn’t be able to look up the answers online on their smartphones.

The amount of homework given to students should be balanced and regulated with grade to prevent academic stress. There should also be healthy balance of exercise, family time and fun time. Stressed out students do not learn effectively, and overloading them with homework will do more harm than good.

Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics teacher at Sytech Learning Academy. From Junior Secondary School to Tertiary Level Engineering Mathematics and Engineering Science.

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