School Homework - Article by AKPS Staff

19 October 2011

Shamsah Raheem Dhanani is a full time faculty at AKPS, Dar es Salaam-Tanzania. In addition to being a full-time teacher, she extends her services as a Professional Development Teacher (PDT).

Shamsah Raheem DhananiShamsah Raheem Dhanani is a full time faculty at AKPS, Dar es Salaam-Tanzania. In addition to being a full-time teacher, she extends her services as a Professional Development Teacher (PDT). She is a graduate of Aga Khan University-Institute for Educational Development and carries ten years of teaching experience. Shamsah has also worked as a human resource trainer and master-trainer in English language skills in various voluntary and corporate capacities.

Please read her article below:

"School Howework: Qualitative Versus Quantitative"
(by Shamsah Raheem Dhanani)

Homework, according to many educators, is supposed to bridge the gap between education and the home environment with the hopes of moving many children forward into a love and passion for learning but, most of the time young children are found burnt out, fatigued and disinterested in the complex tasks they are required to complete at home after coming back from schools. It is a well-conceived idea in schools that homework measures healthy communication between parents and children and develops a sense of responsibility in a child for completing a task and returning it back the next day to the teacher, however on the other hand, it is not evident that an elementary school child achieves academic success by completing loads of assignments as homework. Bannitt and Kalish (2006) assert that homework in huge quantity robs children of sleep, play and exercise time they need for proper physical, emotional and neurological development. Research has proven that too much work leaves our young children with less achievements and a misbalanced academic move.

Often, it has been noticed that children spend hours and hours on the projects given as homework which are pointless and serve very little to the subjects they study and consequently, parents end up with cutting down their evening activities in order to monitor children doing their homework or engage children with a tutor who only earns for helping a child in completing the required assignments and in all of the process, the actual learning has no role to play in it. There exists a school of thought among parents and educators who believe that homework keeps children connected to their subjects and deviate them from their unnecessary pass-times including internet and television but it has to be argued upon that whether the given homework adds to their childrens’ learning and academic success? As child psychologist Dan Kindlon, a Harvard professor and author of several books, including Tough Times, Strong Children, mentions that, "The issue of too much homework comes up whenever I talk to parent groups, and the truth is, there's no good research justification for it. The analyses out there just don't make a connection between homework and success.

Every parent, teacher and school administrator has a common agenda that a child should remain happy, healthy and competitive and above all he/she should love learning but the current pile-it-on approach of giving homework proves to be counter-productive and who’s to blame for this state of affairs; our kids, our educators, our parents or our schooling system? The issue can be addressed if the amount of homework is replaced by the quality/nature of homework given. There have been many studies conducted over the years to show that student achievement improves with homework. With the lowest amount of improvement from a study by Cooper, in 1989 showing only 8% of improvement to the greatest amount in 1999 with Walberg' study showing a 31% increase. (Marzano & Pickering, 2007) but again the question arises as what should be given as homework to a child which proves to be an added learning and not just merely a practice of what has already been taught and made understood in the classroom because it is a known fact that most of the parents help their children in doing homework to such an extent that it cannot be told that whether it has been done by the parents or the child himself/herself and as a result the consequences have to be borne by the child only at the time of surprise class tests/evaluations. It can be in a great interest of the child, the teachers and ultimately the parents if certain effective polices are designed by the school authorities in consultation with parents. For example, students can be asked for the tasks such as interviewing people regarding careers, watch educational television programs associated with school themes, do research within the community, volunteer service to the community, or play educational games with family members. There are many enjoyable experiences and games that involve reasoning, problem-solving and logic that may be valuable learning resources. The routine work which is required to make a child understand the syllabi and contents of the prescribed books can be done as an extended quality class-work. There is a need to promote academic programs to reflect quality which certainly is not the rote, meaningless, irrelevant busy work that students currently receive in some of schools. Such school administrators, and teachers should re-evaluate their curriculum and add meaningful, purposeful tasks to the learning experience. Once quality work becomes a commitment and is established in the schools, students will be more likely to adhere to non-compulsory learning experiences that can be accomplished at home. Currently, most students do homework because they are supposed to, not because they want to or consider the work meaningful or relevant to their experience. Coercive approaches to gain compliance generally spike, and the opportunity to promote quality work is undermined. Therefore, it is high time for teachers, educators and school administrators to re-evaluate the homework policy and re-design it in such a way that it develops the students’ skills and competencies and make them independent learners so that they can consolidate and extend their existing skills rather forcing them to drag heavy bag packs to homes which are full of books to be filled in without even understanding as why it is to be done. However, it cannot be achieved if parental support is not offered. Today’s parents who are well informed and educated can support the teachers and school administrators by getting equally involved with kids in home assignments. They can further enhance their childrens’ skill through healthy discussions and real life example based on their experiences building on the concepts learned in school. Thus, if teachers, school administrators and parents work together, children would surely attain what they deserve to acquire.