Homework: an exercise in futility

Homework is socially unjust

Homework is one of the most socially unjust features of our education system. When educated parents with access to resources are struggling to help their children succeed, what chance does the child from a lower socio-economic background have? When parents are unable or unwilling to participate in the nightly homework routine, when books and computers are absent from the home, how do those children manage with the tasks allocated? Knowing each morning they would have to face the ire of the teacher for not completing the given assignment, is there any wonder they are giving up?

Homework is one of the most socially unjust features of our education system.

Homework is not improving educational outcomes

Carr-Gregg says homework has more than doubled over the past ten years. Are we seeing increased benefit from all this extra work? Well, according to the recently released Gonski Review of Funding for Schools:

“over the last decade the performance of Australian students has declined at all levels of achievement, notably at the top end. This decline has contributed to the fall in Australia’s international position. In 2000, only one country outperformed Australia in reading and scientific literacy and only two outperformed Australia in mathematical literacy. By 2009, six countries outperformed Australia in reading and scientific literacy and 12 outperformed Australia in mathematical literacy.

“In addition to declining performance across the board, Australia has a significant gap between its highest and lowest performing students. This performance gap is far greater in Australia than in many Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, particularly those with high-performing schooling systems. A concerning proportion of Australia’s lowest performing students are not meeting minimum standards of achievement. There is also an unacceptable link between low levels of achievement and educational disadvantage, particularly among students from low socioeconomic and Indigenous backgrounds.”

Richard Walker, an associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Sydney, said in an article for Fairfax Media that the research shows homework doesn’t improve the achievement of children in the early years of primary school, has negligible benefits in the higher grades of primary school and very limited benefits in junior high school. While at the senior high school level, homework benefits the achievement of about 45 per cent of students.

It’s time to reassess homework

Over at Mojito Mother, Caz Makepeace wrote a brilliant blog on this topic.  I loved her version of what homework should be: “You have a new project for homework tonight and every night. It’s called ‘Play, Follow Your Dreams and Let Yourself Breathe’. From now on, you must spend every night talking with Mum and Dad about anything you like, playing with your toys, taking one step towards that dream of yours, and then sit in a quiet space on your own, close your eyes and breathe. I’m not going to check in on you that you have done it, because I believe you will.”

Our children need time to switch off, not be bogged down in responsibilities beyond their ability to manage

In a world where children are being increasingly asked to follow an adult timetable, not getting home until 5.30pm or later, then being expected to sit down and start work again, it’s time to reassess the whole homework debacle. Our children need time to switch off, not be bogged down in responsibilities beyond their ability to manage.

What are your thoughts on homework? Has it been a good thing for your child? Or do you find it a stressful add-on to an already jam-packed day?

Janine Fitzpatrick from Shambolic LivingA big thank you to Janine from Shambolic Living, for permission to republish her post. Janine is a “wannabe blogger with an untidy house, imperfect children and no celebrity friends”. She has a terrific blog – check it out.

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