We all hate homework, but is it really important that we do it? Is doing homework good for us or is it simply a waste of time? This debate sets out the arguments on both sides.
Homework is an assignment that students are given to do at home. It might be a continuation of classwork or a new piece of work. It may also be preparation for the next class. The amount of homework school students get varies a lot not only from country to country, or from school to school, but often from day to day. For most the amount of time spent on homework gets longer as we go through our school lives. At the start of primary school we get almost no homework but it is often several hours a day by the time we finish secondary school.
The most important thing in this debate is not so much how much time is spent on homework but whether that time is wasted. If it is time well spent then having a lot of homework to do may not be a bad thing. The debate should therefore consider what else school children would do with that time. Another angle would be to look at whether school could replace homework with something that makes better use of time. For example in Britain the education secretary (the member of the government who controls education across the whole country) wants schools to scrap homework and instead have longer days in school.
Time is valuable. We all need some time to ourselves. School already takes up a lot of time and it is necessary to have time which does not involve concentrating on learning. Education is not the only important activity in everyone’s day; physical activity, play, and time with family are just as important as all teach life skills just in different ways. The internet makes it possible to be learning at home, there are even many computer games that help with learning. Homework clashes with these other activities. It can damage family relationships as it means parents have to try and make their children do their homework.
We should expect to get a certain amount of homework per day and build other activities around the homework. Homework can be a useful part of time with family as it provides a chance for parents and other relatives to take part in schooling.
Homework does not only take up time doing the homework at home but also takes up time in class. First there is the time that the teacher takes when explaining the task. Then more time is taken going through the homework when it is done and marked. This time could be better spent engaging with the class to find out what they do and don’t understand. The answer to this is to have more time in class rather than boring homework.
When homework does take up time in class it is helpful for learning. And when it does not then it does not harm the classwork. Homework aids classwork by providing a space for those who have not finished the work to catch up and by helping us to remember what we did in class.
We are not the only ones who take a lot of time on homework, our teachers do as well. The teacher needs to design the homework, explain it, mark each piece individually, and tell everyone what they got right and wrong. If all this is not done then the homework loses its value as we need to be told individually what our mistakes are to be able to learn from homework. Teachers could as easily use the classwork to find out who knows what they are doing and who are making mistakes and it would save them time.
Teachers will need to mark and go through work whether it is classwork or homework. It is better that the teacher should spend their time in class teaching so leaving practising the methods taught to homework.
Especially if we get too much homework it can take the enjoyment out of learning. No matter how engaging the teacher is in class homework will almost certainly be stressful, boring and tiring. It is simply much harder to make homework engaging and interesting as it is often done on our own. We know that there is no direct link between how much homework is set and grades. Studies done on this come to different conclusions so teachers should only set homework when they are sure it is needed. When we only get homework occasionally we will consider that piece more important and a better use of time.
Whether homework puts us off learning will always depend on what the homework we are given is. Tasks that involve no interaction, or are not engaging will discourage learning. But homework could also mean reading an interesting book, having to find something out, create something, or doing a task with family. Homework can be as varied as classwork and just as interesting.
The main aim of education is to prepare us for the rest of lives. Homework is teaching us a key skill that we will need in the future. When we do homework we are learning to work on our own, the discipline to get the work done without the teacher’s prompting, and when we come up against difficulties we learn how to overcome them without our teacher’s help. Millions of people work for themselves (self-employed), or work from home, they are using exactly the same skills doing homework teaches us. This is not a waste of time.
Most homework is simply fulfilling a task that has already been explained so not truly teaching you to work on your own. Working on your own means setting your own targets, and working out how to overcome obstacles.
We are the ones who gain from learning so we should take responsibility for some of our own learning. We can take responsibility by doing homework. When we don’t do our homework we are the ones who suffer; we don’t get good marks and don’t learn as much. We also lose out in other ways as taking responsibility means learning how to manage our time and how to do the things that are most important first rather than the things we most enjoy like playing. Homework then does not waste time; it is part of managing it.
The same kind of responsibility is given to us no matter the kind of work. When given classwork we are responsible for completing it rather than playing around. The only difference at home is that it is our parents telling us to work not our teachers.
We should think of homework as being a continuation of our classwork. Not everyone in the class works at the same rate so it is necessary for teachers to give anyone who is falling behind the chance to catch up. If this was done in class those who are faster would have nothing to do during this time, which would be a real waste of time. Homework then allows those who are behind to take as long as they need to catch up with the rest of the class.
Teachers should not set classwork expecting that the class will have to finish that classwork as homework. Students who are falling behind should receive more attention from the teacher during class to make sure that all the members of the class can move at the same speed.
One way we learn is by repetition, another is by doing things, when doing homework we learn in both of these ways. When we are taught a method at school, such as how to do a type of sum, then we need to practice using that method to make sure we know how to so that we can remember it. If we just learn the method and don’t practice it we will soon forget how we do it.
We don’t spend all of class time learning new methods so there should be time in class to practice any new method that is taught. Once some repetition has been done in class how much more do we really need at home? If we have not successfully learnt the method in the class then we will be simply repeating the mistake.