Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Give Less Homework

Posted by butalidnl on 19 September 2010

The Department of Education has recently sent out a memo telling teachers not to give homework to students on weekends. [see DepEd Orders No Homework During Weekends ] This is in order to give children quality time with their parents, and time to play with their friends. I think this is a good idea. In fact, I think that too much homework is given to grade school students during the week days also.

Here in the Netherlands, grade school students don’t get homework at all. As a rule, all school work is done at school. So, children have their time at home all to themselves. Some children have extra-curricular activities e.g. swimming or gymnastics lessons. And children here sleep rather early (compared to children in the Philippines). Well, the children come out rather well, even without homework – the Dutch are among the best educated people in the world. So, I don’t think that having homework in elementary school is that important.  (When the children get to high school, though, they get loads of homework.)

Some teachers object to the Department of Education memo.  They even said that homework is a good occasion for parent-child bonding – that is, the parents bond with the child while helping with the homework. Well, I object to this point for a number of reasons. First, is that homework gets assigned expecting the parents to help the child. Well, this is simply wrong. The child should do the homework by themselves, otherwise they won’t really learn the lesson. And second, if parent-child bonding is done mainly through doing homework together; well, I think this indicates the very poor level of that parent-child relation. There are enough  (and better) ways to bond, other than doing homework. And third, the parent also needs to rest, after presumably a full day at work.  Being expected to help with homework is an additional, and unnecessary, strain to the already very busy lives of parents.

I would suggest that the Department of Education go even one step further. They should instruct teachers to assign homework only on the logic that the child does it by themselves. Preferably, it should mainly involve reading the lesson for the next day. If lessons are read first, and then taught by the teacher, the students are more likely to retain the knowledge, particularly if the teacher does a good job and makes the lesson interesting.  Homework could also be assigned with the parents in mind, but this should be done explicitly: the child could be assigned to ask her parents about something, e.g. their memories of a particular historic event.

If homework is assigned sparingly, then elementary school children would not need to carry all their books to school and then back home everyday. They could leave the books for subjects that they don’t need to study the next day at school, in lockers. This will really be a load off elementary school students’ backs – literally.

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