In a recently published letter on Parent24, headmaster Gareth Dry from Riverview Preparatory School in Mpumalanga, wrote, "All the latest and best research around the world now indicates that homework at primary school level is unnecessary and often dangerous to the cognitive and social development of our children."
"To give or not to give homework is not an ‘age old debate’," he said, "as it is actually no longer a debate. The science is in and it is irrefutable."
He mentions the importance of reading and play, instead of homework, in a child’s daily routine, as well as the fact that homework, or rather, “extension work”, should be left to the experts – teachers – and not parents.
"Homework? No thank you!" he concluded.
Read the full article here: "Homework? No thank you" – a principal responds
We received an overwhelming response from parents, some of whom agreed completely, stating the many reasons why they too wish we’d just completely rid ourselves of homework. But others also highlighted the fact that not only does homework help children learn, it also helps them develop a particular work ethic and forces them to be responsible and disciplined.
Here’s what our readers had to say:
Yes to homework!
"Positive reinforcement is critical to learning"
"Thank you for the opportunity to engage the given subject matter. My response to the reading on Facebook was as follows:
The principal’s response to "Homework" is vague and an educated guess at best. The empirical research supporting early childhood development and the need for "positive reinforcement” (homework) is critical to learning. Education models in Finland and the like take a comprehensive approach to education. It's for that reason "homework" is emphasised. The example that is used by the principal is crafted to support his argument, nothing in education is "cut and dried" because even experts do not know everything.
Naturally, the discourse can go on at some length. Evidence from the literature can be extracted, from further back than Horace Mann to Joyce Epstein and so on. In short it is not the practice of "homework" but the traits of an individual learner, quality of the learning experience and a conducive learning environment that makes education possible."
– Gavin Louis
"Homework is important to instill discipline and self-regulation"
Phili MaNdlovu also disagreed with doing away with homework, saying it’s important to instil discipline. “The problem is we have too many helicopter parents who want to sit down with their kids and do homework with them throughout,” she explained. “We need to scaffold and use primary school to help children learn to self regulate.
“I helped my daughter until she finished the foundation phase. Already in Grade 3, I was backing away... she knew what time homework was. I was nearby providing support, and when she forgot I asked her questions. I started allowing natural consequences to happen in Grade 4 (i.e. let her do her thing with no interference). If she forgets, I don't check and she gets a black dot at school. If she does it, she has to come and ask me to check, then I go through it with her. I tell you, she has diligently managed her own diary and studying and getting ready, etc. since Grade 4 and is a Top Achiever. She is well prepared for High School, which she started this year and has marks above 90 in all subjects... still well organised and working hard and self regulating.
“Homework allows [them] to develop these skills.”
Shereen Van Vollenhoven agreed.
“Homework is important to instill good work ethic,” she explained. “It should never be stressful and quantity should be age appropriate.
“My girls are in Grade 3 and Grade 6 and all they have is reading and spelling words. My Grade 6 sometimes doesn’t have any homework on some days. I feel it honestly is part of school life and prepares them for high school and tertiary education.”
No to homework!
But other parents agreed with Gareth and admitted they didn’t feel equipped to help their kids complete their homework, and even if they could, the days became much too long and stressful for both learners and their parents.
"Children should be children"
"It’s really a bit much for my 8-year-old"
Tammy Gilmour says she agrees that homework should go.
"The worst part is that I think everyone has a different way to working things out whether it be in maths or grammar. How do I know which way is correct or incorrect as per the way they are teaching them at school? He is 8, starts school at 8am and finishes at 3pm. Then he must still come and do homework, it’s really a bit much for these kids."
"It's too much for my Grade 4 too"
Theresa, a mom to four children, also wrote in, fully agreeing:
"I'm a stay-at-home mom with 4 children. One in high school, one in Grade 4, two in nursery school. We leave the two in nursery school till 5pm, so I can sit with the Grade 4 doing homework. And believe me, no matter what we've done or tested, it’s just too much for the children.
I believe their homework should be going over test questions they got wrong, lots of reading and playing."
"Let them read and learn through fun play"
Mother, granny, and teacher Pam also wrote:
"If one adds up the amount of hours a child is at school and adds the hours doing homework, one usually totals more hours than an adult is allowed to work BY LAW!
Any teacher who explains the work properly and MAKES SURE that the child grasps and understands the work – whatever the subject – enables the child to complete their required work in class. Because the teacher is in the class with them while they are working, they can assist with queries. Therefore no homework, no stress, no tears, no frustration, no anger.
Classrooms are overcrowded. BUT if a teacher has the imagination to teach the children using concepts that they understand and relate to, the teacher will hold their interest and they will enjoy learning.
I totally agree that reading homework is imperative, but it must not be repetitive, it must be fun and exciting in a way that the child looks forward to the next book.
Definitely NO to conventional homework and YES to outdoor play, imaginative and constructive tasks that are really age appropriate, and YES to school-organised, social afternoon activities for the children who would otherwise be sitting alone at home.
Our children are the future and their imagination and a love of learning needs to be nurtured in order for them to become confident, productive adults who can truly reach for the stars!”
"Read, read, read, play and sleep well"
On that note, readers also pointed out that there are other things that are imperative to our children’s cognitive and social development. Suzete Pereira says:
"School work should stay at school and children should rather spend time playing with their friends and enjoying time with their families in the afternoons.
They also need to learn social skills. Maybe do a sport and learn to play an instrument. And definitely read lots of books. Your reading skills help you in all your subjects.
Of course a good night's sleep of 8 hours is so important too. I don't think many children do that now as they are bombarded with so much homework.
Definitely limit the time they can watch TV and play on iPads, etc."
“Too much homework frustrates both parent and child… A better solution needs to be found...”
Striking a balance
"Like absolutely everything, it needs to be balanced"
Many readers seemed to have offered that very, simple solution: balance.
Ng Wai Ting, an educator from Singapore, continued:
“It’s not true that we don’t give homework. However teachers across subjects coordinate to make sure that students don’t spend more than 1.5 hours on it or give less homework when they have a longer day (activities after school).
Also homework reinforces what students have learnt in the classroom and is scaffolded to make sure it’s doable on their own. Practise makes permanent!"
What are your thoughts on homework and added research projects and assignments after school? Send your thoughts and we may publish them. Please include the age or grade you're referring to.