No-Homework Policy: Is it Good or Bad for Academic Learning?

If you ask a student whether he likes to do homework or not, the obvious response would be a big fat “No”. It is hard to find a student who would disagree with that. Forget about that; just ask yourself: “Do you like homework?” The response would be in negative.

When I was a student I would finish my homework as soon as possible; not because I loved doing it but to ensure I had the rest of the time to myself. But was homework necessary? Did the homework help me learn better during my elementary years?

What about you?

Well, the debate over the importance of homework in learning began in the 1940s, and is still a hot topic that concerns every person who is even remotely connected with the academics, including students, their parents, teachers, educators, administrators and others.

Perhaps it is insignificant in the debate whether a student likes homework or not. What is more important is to discover whether or not homework is helping them learn better. Having a no-homework policy in the schools would be extremely controversial, and if you are going to make a case with the motion, you’ll need tons of facts and evidence to prove your point. Reportedly, last year, several elementary schools high schools in the UK had declared no-homework policy since the school administrations believed the homework wasn't actually helping the students learn any better. The banning of homework did face a lot of criticism but has this made any impact on the students?

A number of researches have been conducted to understand the relation between homework and the achievement of the students, and some of them have shown some promising results. The most comprehensive research was conducted by Harris Cooper, the professor of Psychology at Duke University, who discovered that the students who did homework had a better performance in school. It was also pointed out in Prof. Cooper’s research that the correlation between homework and student achievement was stronger among the older students (7th to 12th grade).

The objective of Prof. Cooper’s research was to identify how homework impacts academic achievements (test scores for instance). In his reports, it was noted that homework could supposedly improve study habits, a student's attitude towards school, inquisitiveness, self-discipline and individual problem solving capability. But it also came into light that homework can cause mental and physical fatigue among the students and also fuels the negative attitude among students about learning. The results also highlighted the fact that homework has also limited the leisure time for students. Prof. Cooper noted that further study on the potential effects of homework is still required.

It is true that people who practice their lessons at home have a better chance of performing well in school, but it is also true that it takes away a majority of the leisure time from the children, which could have been utilized by spending quality time with family or playing with friends. In fact, Prof. Cooper also believed that homework is not required for the younger students, not until fourth or fifth grade. In fact, a lot of educators have advocated the fact that homework should be banned from the elementary schools as they do not offer any academic advantage to the young students and only increase their struggle by overwhelming them with various tasks.

In a particular study, it has been revealed that the time spent on homework has a direct relation to increased mental illnesses like anxiety, anger, depression and more. In fact, it has been noticed that with the increasing pressure of homework, the student achievements are also going down. All these indicate that homework is doing more harm than good. In another set of studies, it has come to light that homework can be one of the common reasons of increasing family conflict, especially when the parents start helping the students with their homework. It adds more pressure on the child and put him further away from indulging into other activities. In a nutshell, it is not providing the child with the balance and variety of life by keeping him away from sport, music, art and other extra-curricular activities.

The question – whether or not “no-homework policy” is helpful to the students for learning, has remained the topic of debate for decades. In fact, once it was believed that a child's brain should be exercised like a muscle. Hence, it seemed logical to the educators of that time to burden the children with homework. But soon it was observed that the students are struggling to attend their homework since it coincided with their other engagements. Back then farming, business and other family ventures were given more importance. For this reason, homework was put aside from the priority list for few years.

In the 1950s, when the WWII was over, most of the developed countries realised that to remain as one of the leading nations, they need to get ahead in the sectors of education and technology, which is why the schools kept burdening the students with homework to bring out their potential. But again, the popular opinion took a 180-degree turn as the pressure began to create a high level of fear and anxiety among students and parents. However, the homework system was revamped again to strengthen the education system in the developed countries to create brighter minds.

While a large portion of today's generation is in favor of banning homework from several levels of education, some believe that a small amount of homework can be healthy and educational for the children. Several educators believe that the “10-minute rule” can be quite effective for the students in elementary schools. The 10-minute rule says that a student should do a daily homework of 10 minutes per grade level. For instance, third graders should do around 30 minutes of homework every night. It is a popular method in the US. Some experts conceive the idea of homework like medication. They say, medication is required to treat an ailment, but too much of it can kill you. On the contrary, having a little bit of it won't have any effect. So it is wiser to know the limit and consume it in moderation for better results.

One of the popular opinions says students shouldn’t be burdened with homework until fifth grade. It further explains that banning homework from elementary school won’t erase the lessons from the students’ minds, but it will certainly help them tolerate the long and tiring day at school. It will also help them pursue their unique interests after the school hours. In fact, it is believed that a no-homework policy can bring balance to their life and serve them in their future. A few experts say that instead of asking them to do homework, it is more significant to ignite the habit of reading among the children. Reading opens up new doors for the children. In a fun way, it also educates them about so many interesting things. Besides the habit of reading can later help them in his higher studies when the student requires several books to go through to find the relevant data.

Although the popular belief talks about abolishing the homework system from elementary school, you cannot deny the fact that homework has its own set of contribution to offer. Maybe it is insignificant to the younger students, but for the older students who are in middle schools and high schools, homework can add some value in their overall learning process. Homework can help them understand the significance of time management, and also bring some discipline in their approach towards study. Besides, it prepares them for the challenges that they are going to face in the near future. So, you can see, eliminating the homework won’t be a good idea either.

Like any other significant thing, homework also has its pros and cons. Several studies have shown that homework can be a pivotal element for the student achievements, but at the same time, it can cause unnecessary stress and tiredness among students as well as their parents. A further study is definitely required to find out how homework should be employed so that it can benefit the students in the most favourable way. Homework, in so many ways, isn’t the perfect mean to bring out the best from the students, but it does have some value to add. A limitation of the homework seems more logical than an absolute no-homework policy. Some adjustments are required, and before making those adjustments, further study on the similar line as Prof. Cooper is required in this context.

The homework debate is going on for several decades, and it may continue in the future unless a definite solution is instated. We need to understand that the debate should be focused on the students. Also, we need to understand that what works for a particular class, may not work in a different class. Before deciding the amount of homework, a teacher needs to understand what the needs of the classroom and the school are. Each school is unique in its own kind of way, and the type of students that study in School A can be a lot different from the ones in School B. A no-homework policy can be employed for a year to test its effectiveness on the students, and if it fails to provide the expected results, it can be scrapped or modified accordingly.

Bottom-line is that a no-homework policy can be a good thing for the students in elementary school, but eliminating it completely from the education system won’t be a wise thing to do. A change in the existing education system is required, but should be made in the best interest of the students, and not in the best interest of the educators or outside influences.

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