MASUM BILLAH


Giving homework to the students has become an integral part of formal education. This practice has been in vogue in many countries of the world and in our country it has achieved a significant position. The guardians are concerned about homework. The class teacher or the private teacher who gives homework to students is appreciated and liked by the guardians. Guardians think that the teachers know how to keep the students under pressure and pressure gives them good learning. Actually, things prove otherwise.

Whether we should adore giving homework to the students or not or how much homework we should give them remains a debating topic still.  Let us see some comments of famous personalities about homework. The Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen says about homework: “The need for home tasks is particularly difficult to meet for parents from disadvantaged classes — these children may be the first generation to receive school education. Parents with the disadvantage of having received little education find it especially difficult to do anything for their children in helping them with their assigned home tasks. It is not surprising that they long for the ability to engage private tutors for their children, but of course very often they cannot, in fact, afford to help their kids in this way. The result is not only frustration and despair, but also continued transmission of education backwardness from one generation to the next.” (Primary Schooling: Private tuition, home tasks and class boundaries, by Amartya Sen. The Telegraph, December 20, 2009).

Pratichi Trust, India, led by Amartya Sen, 2009 report discussed the curricular load for school children. Children are heavily loaded with too many things to learn, whereas the skills of “reading, writing and arithmetic” are ignored. The main objective of basic education is to make children skilled in these 3 R’s. There is no place for home task in this.

Homework should be relevant and purposeful, said Denise Pope, a senior lecturer in Stanford University's School of Education and director of Challenge Success,  a project with schools to counter the causes of adolescent academic stress. The most valuable homework is that which is perceived by students to be meaningful, while simply providing "busy work" does nothing, she said. A research paper she co-authored, "Hazardous Homework?," analyzes the effects of homework on students. Among the findings: "Any student who is doing more than 3 1/2 hours of homework a night is actually at risk for higher stress levels and poor mental and physical health, “Pope said. 

There are some teachers, students and even some educators who believe that homework is a kind of revision. After a day of learning at school, students have most likely forgotten everything they have learnt already. They can revise what they have learnt, back up their memory and their ability to recall the information more quickly and easily, as studies have proved. Too much homework though will tire out students. John Dewey once said which is "education is not preparation for life; education is life itself". It's no doubt that if middle school students do not receive homework, they will suffer in high school and will be unprepared. Besides, younger students should get used to doing hard work and preparing for the hardships in life, and learn that not everything in life is fun and simple.

The same group of people belonging to education and school think that students should have homework because homework helps students get a better understanding of what they are learning in class. They also believe that too much work/homework is bad for students ‘health and it can cause anxiety. Anxiety is when a student is scared to do work or homework. Also students can get stress and start to do drugs and ruin their life. It actually negatively affects students’ health. Students get stressed from homework. Their head hurts, they don’t want to hear anything, and they start hitting themselves. Students can actually get sick from homework.

While many educators strongly believe that homework makes learning not fun and discourages learning. It causes stress on students and their families. There is hardly any research in our country that shows homework to be beneficial. Homework assignments are busier works than quality learning experience. “Most of what homework is doing is driving pupils away from learning,” says education professor Harvey Daniels. Let’s face it, most children dread homework, or at best see it as something to be gotten through. Thus, even if it did provide other benefits, they would have to be weighed against its likely effect on pupils’ love of learning. Homework also sucks time from family, sleep, and other activities that can be beneficial to the students. American Child Association did in the 1930s when it pinned homework and child labor as leading killers of children who contracted tuberculosis and heart disease (The Washington Post). Students need to play to be healthy. According to Alfie Kohn play is so important to optima child development that it has been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child. Homework can affect students’ health by turning them into “couch potatoes” as they spend more time studying than playing outside. Mary Bousted, General Secretary of the ATL (Association of Teachers and Lecturers), said “I think a lot of homework is a waste of time. It puts a huge amount of stress particularly on disadvantaged children from disadvantaged homes” (The Telegraph).

Simply, there isn't any empirical evidence supporting the practice of homework. Most studies actually find that there isn't a correlation between homework and achievement. But a general observation shows that the top-performing countries of the world give the least amount of homework while the lowest performing ones give the most amount of homework. In our educational field better schools are thought to be those which keep the students awfully busy with homework as most of the guardians desire it. We hardly think of the uniform and harmonious development of the students. We don’t give them time to exercise and practice extra , co-curricular and creative activities lessening the unnecessary burden of  homework. Only moderate homework can be given which does not create students’ anxiety and stand in the way of blooming their creative faculty. 


MASUM BILLAH: Program Manager, BRAC Education Program, Brac and Vice-President, Bangladesh English Language Teachers Association (BELTA), Dhaka, Bangladesh.


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