Homework given by school teachers has always been an important topic of discussion.
There is a set of parents who insist on having homework assigned so that it keeps their children occupied for least a couple of hours after school is over. But, there is another set of parents who criticise the practice and want their children to have free time after school.
I have been heading various national and international schools as a Principal/Director for close to two decades now, and I have tried out various methods to solve this issue and keep everyone happy.
Let’s understand what exactly happens in this situation.
If work is not given, children go home, get busy with their gadgets, Playstations, and playing outside. But when they come back to school the next day, they often fail to recollect what they learned. This is especially true for primary classes. The teachers then have to recapitulate, and sometimes may have to redo the entire lesson, which becomes time-consuming and repetitive. Consequently, when the student’s performance in examinations is not up to the mark, parents are unhappy.
Middle and high school children often go to group coaching where they have to study with children of different schools from their neighborhood. Every school has its own curriculum map and it is not uniform. So, the tutor decides what he/she is going to teach as per his or her convenience. This puts pressure on the children as they get confused about whom to follow. If the school does not assign any homework then children actually fail to keep pace with what is happening in school. Most of the time children concentrate more on their after-school learning than what happens at school, which often leads to student indiscipline in classrooms. Such students do not pay attention to what is taught in the class as they are busy with their other learning. In the bargain, other students who depend solely on the school teaching suffer.
Parents who send their children for extra coaching are happy when their child is given no homework, but those who do not put their children in such a rat race, insist on the school giving them extra work. For subjects like English, Mathematics, and Physics, lots of practice is required and I firmly believe that children have to stretch beyond their textbooks and focus on practice.
Over the years, I created my own solution to solve this issue. In some of the schools I have headed, I introduced a regular class for homework on a daily basis, typically in the last period. This period is monitored by a home-room teacher and they are given the chance to complete their homework in different subjects in school, after which they are free to do whatever they want post-school hours. This made the entire school community, students, teachers and parents happy. If you like this idea you are most welcome to implement it in your schools!
For midterm and summer holidays, children could be assigned with age-appropriate project assignments to keep them busy while they learn something. Most of the kids enjoy such tasks as they get an opportunity to explore, compile and organize the information in a creative way.
We hope you find these ideas and suggestions insightful and may even choose to implement a change in your institution. Tell us what you think and let us know of your experience with giving (or not giving) students homework and their response towards learning and retention. We look forward to hearing from you.