Homework ‘overkill’ slated

2014-10-07 00:00

HOUR upon hour of homework does more harm than good to children younger than 10, according to an expert.

Dr Lara Ragpot, a lecturer of child development at the University of Johannesburg, was yesterday reacting to a report in London’s Daily Telegraph on the “stressful” impact of homework on junior school children.

The report says that British teachers believe that younger pupils should be freed from homework because they are already tired after a long school day. Furthermore, it can lead to stress in the home because it is often slotted in between bath- and bedtime.

Ragpot said a child doesn’t have the stamina or energy to concentrate for a lengthy period.

“Children’s retention is lower at that age. If you try to teach too many concepts to children, you’re being unfair to them because they can only absorb so much.”

She said there is a perception among parents that “teachers aren’t doing their jobs” if a child comes home without homework.

In her experience, children of that age are facing between half an hour and three hours of homework a day, depending on the school.

Yet a child of up to 10 can only concentrate for an average of 20 minutes, she said.

“If a child gets three hours’ homework, the parents should break it up into 20-minute sessions, but that is impossible and turns the evening into another school day. It does more harm than good.”

She recommends that children in this age group do no more than an hour’s homework, broken up in to three sessions.

“The aim of homework isn’t to overload the child in the hopes that they’ll understand a concept.”

Professor Kobus Maree, an educational psychologist at the University of Pretoria, said it is important for children to be introduced to homework as soon as possible.

It must then be gradually increased.

“Homework has never killed a child. On the contrary, those that learn early are the ones who become top performers.”

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