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The Southern Cross - Can We Educate Without Homework?

 

By Michael Shackleton – Our special supplement on Catholic Education provided a reasonably comprehensive assessment of the state of education in South Africa, with special attention to our own schools.

The positives and the negatives were highlighted, so readers could see that whatever problems schools, teachers and learners were faced with in past years, they had now taken on a fresh 21st century challenge.

Although in theory education is on the right track, it needs a new impetus to rise higher and achieve greater success in producing citizens well prepared to handle today’s turbulent environment.

there were press reports that told of a growing number of South African teachers who believe homework is a potential hazard for children’s emotional wellbeing at primary school level.

Coincidentally, around the same time, there were press reports that told of a growing number of South African teachers who believe homework is a potential hazard for children’s emotional wellbeing at primary school level.

The headmaster of the Catholic De La Salle Holy Cross College Junior School in Victory Park, Johannesburg, was quoted as asking teachers whether extra work at home is worth eating into the already limited time the school’s young pupils have at home.

He is not in favour of ditching homework altogether, but likes to reduce it to certain days, leaving the other days for the children to be free for family time. Also, he is reported to want young children to spend no longer than 15 minutes at it and higher-grade learners no longer than 30 minutes.

This is a question that tends to shift the interest from education as a school-orientated mission into the home and parental responsibility.

Apparently, researchers are discovering that children who come home from the classroom with a pile of homework often need medication to ease their high state of anxiety and depression.

Families facing this problem, it was found, were not eating together, the children were going to bed late and arriving at school late, to the detriment of their academic achievement.

Families facing this problem, it was found, were not eating together, the children were going to bed late and arriving at school late, to the detriment of their academic achievement.

No one argues that all children with no homework on their minds will be undoubtedly better adjusted and healthier in mind and body. But some argue that for reasons of healthy psychological development, homework is unproductive and unnecessary.

Of course, referring to the successes some schools have achieved with a no-homework policy does not make it a general rule. Primary schools vary hugely in their locations, personnel, pupils and funding, and it is normal for the individual school to decide in accordance with its own needs and goals.

Studying at home, especially when examination time approaches, is something that generations of schoolgoers have grown up with.

In practice, the majority of South African schools stick to the rule that homework is part of the wider curriculum and there should be no rush to abandon it. Studying at home, especially when examination time approaches, is something that generations of schoolgoers have grown up with.

Our Catholic schools are spread across the land from rural areas to affluent urban settlements. Each school takes its task seriously of bringing up its charges in the spirit of Christian love and respect for their dignity as individual human persons.

Homework is not intended to be burdensome but is a tool to evoke in the child a keenness and desire to learn, not solely about textbook material but also about human relations, justice and appreciation of one another and the planet we live on.

Parents who supervise or guide their children play an enormous part in educating them, not only with homework assignments but also with mature parental care and wisdom.

Many parents, including single parents, are so preoccupied with work that they have little time to devote to homework guidance.

This is a reality that all educators know very well and are coping with as well as they can. The shortage of teachers means less contact with parents and less effective education. When parents can support their children with reading, writing and the audio-visual aids and smart appliances in use today, the ideal for sound teaching is in sight.

Whether homework is important during a child’s junior school life or not is apparently less doubtful now than before.

Whether homework is important during a child’s junior school life or not is apparently less doubtful now than before. But there are increasing indications that it has no great bearing on academic performance.

The social and emotional tensions of modern South Africa are reflected in our schools and colleges. Wise parents and educators have to work together to ease the burden on families and all learners, particularly those in junior school.

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