So many of the things we do, we know to be wrong yet we keep doing because – well, it’s always been this way. And giving homework to little children is no different.
I think homework is a wonderful way for a teacher to help a child learn independently. When we apply concepts we learn in school to new problems and solve them ourselves, it helps us to understand them better.
It also gives us confidence that we can solve them without assistance. The teacher is able to assess whether the student has really understood what he has been teaching in class.
But homework, although given with the right purpose in mind, is harmful in the case of little children. Homework to a 6 year old kid is given based on the assumption that their parents will help them to do it.
This assumption is dangerous because children of many parents either are unable to do it (because they are uneducated or do not have the time to do it) or in some cases do not bother to help children with their homework. Shouting at them for not doing their homework or forcing a pencil in their hand when they are in the mood to play isn’t helping.
This can be a major cause for loss of confidence in the little child. Imagine how a 6 year old kid from a poor, uneducated family feels when his friends talk about how their parents helped them with their homework or how their tutor (who their parents pay loads of money to) practically does their homework for them while his parents couldn’t help at all.
If we are to level the playing field and create true equality of opportunity in schools, we must do away with homework until children are able to learn on their own and do it without any assistance from their parents.
A teacher who has given a particular topic as homework will assume that the topic covered in it need not be revised. A child who couldn’t grasp the topic has few options when he starts to do his homework:
- Ask his parents and/or siblings to help. Receive help and get the work done.
- Spend hours poring over pages and pages of work to do while his parents fire away at him for being lazy and watching too many cartoons. Then, somehow complete the work with a little help from here and there.
- Get a scolding from the teacher the next day and from his parents when they find out from the teacher that the homework wasn’t complete.
The worst part is that these very children carry their parents’ hopes and dreams with them. These parents do not want their children to be actors or rock-stars. All they want is for them to not have to go through the misery they went through and go through every day of their lives.
And what are we doing? We are reminding them that they are second-rate people by sending them a notice daily that they should’ve done better.
A natural question at this point is, ‘How will we fit so many subjects in the same limited school time without giving homework??’ My answer is “we don’t”.
Schools are going crazy over Extra Curricular Activities (E.C.A.) nowadays.
Almost every school in every metropolitan city today boasts of how they teach Karate, Swimming and Dance in school and how they are providing education that meets today’s needs.
Sadly, they are following today’s trends and not today’s needs. We need to do away with this culture. Nowhere do I want to imply we don’t need the school grounds, the annual sports meet or the school dance competition. I am only saying that they shouldn’t be ‘taught’ in school. Singing and Dancing should be things children do in their free time after school depending on what their interests are. And here’s why I think so:
- Compare the no homework model with respect to two children – one from a poor uneducated family and one from a well-to-do family. Both get the same education at school. Both learn the same subjects and get the same amount of assistance in their academics. NO HOMEWORK. No 5 kg bags for the children to carry home.
- The difference will lie when they come back from school. The rich kid will go to his dance lessons and his piano lessons. The poor kid will play with a stick. The rich kid will come back from his lessons and his tuition teacher will come and revise the concepts he learnt in school. The poor kid is out helping his mom with the cooking and cleaning of the house.
If the advantages of the no homework model are still not apparent to you, then I suggest you stop reading this article. Yes, the rich kid has more opportunities. Yes, capitalism is unfair (is it?). It is the government’s job to fund the poor kid’s dancing and piano lessons. It’s not HIS fault that he is poor. It’s the rich corporations and the politicians that are sucking the life out of this country. Right? Right?
WRONG. Capitalism and democracy aren’t broken. Our idea of education is broken.
If you think that we can provide the same level of education to every child in the world, a country or even a single locality, then you’ve probably been bitten by a bug called communism (not to be confused with humanity) or living in a low-population, first-world country where a large portion of the population is educated and this is actually possible.
And once we accept this reality – that we cannot provide the same opportunities to all children, it is not difficult to see how homework is the cause of difference in academic performance in children from different family backgrounds which seeps into their adult life as well. How?
Due to the teacher’s assumption that the topics given as homework have been understood by the student, the students’ confidence will grow feebler and feebler as they move on to more advanced topics which take the previous day’s homework topic as a given.
And in the no homework model, the poor kid might not learn the piano, but at least he will be able to learn his ABCDs right.
He may not be able to paint on a canvas with water color but he now has all the time in the world after school to pick up a stick and draw his heart out on the sand.
And we are not sacrificing anybody in the process; we are not stopping the well-to-do parents from giving more opportunities to their child. In fact, we are giving them even more options. They didn’t have any choice if the dance teacher in their child’s school sucked. Now they do.
The poor kid might still feel bad that he doesn’t get the dance lessons but hey, I feel bad that I don’t have a Lamborghini. That’s life. We can only do what we can and hope for the best.
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- No homework until a child is 10 years old.
- No E.C.A. in the school curriculum (except the annual events). Children’s parents will be responsible for the E.C.A.
- No heavy bags please. Children are not porters.
If you’re feeling all pumped up, here’s two awesome TED talks by Ken Robinson that have really moved me.