The upside and downside of homework

“NO homework today,” the teacher told the class.

The young schoolchildren were elated. It was music to their ears.

That was how we typically reacted when told there was no homework while we were still in primary school.

Without homework, we could watch cartoons on TV, play with our siblings, wouldn’t get scolded by our parents for not doing or being unable to do our homework, and above all, there was no worry about having to face an angry teacher for not handing in our after-school assignment.

Generally, children do not like homework. There are also parents who do not like their children getting too much homework although not all are on the same page, especially those lucky enough to have academically-inclined children who love homework.

thesundaypost recently spoke to several parents on children and homework, and their comments point to the prevailing attitude on the subject.

Jimmy Ling, a father of three, said many young children needed their parents to help with their homework.

The problem, he added, was that the situation at home differed from family to family since lifestyle or status is not universally similar.

This means parental involvement with their children’s schoolwork at home also varies. Not all parents have the time for their children’s homework. Some may be too exhausted after a long day at the office.

Ling pointed out that since not all children lived in the same home environment, there was ‘an inequality of sorts’ in that some of them were fortunate to have a conducive atmosphere to do their homework while others may not be so lucky.

Moreover, cases abound of schoolchildren who are disadvantaged by their parents’ low education level or illiteracy. These youngsters would struggle with their schoolwork as their parents could not help them even if they wanted to.

It has been noted that non-Mandarin-speaking children who attend Chinese schools usually find it hard doing their homework as their parents are unable to offer any help.

Ling shared, “An education professor once confided to me he thought the whole idea of homework actually does not make sense. It implies school hours are not enough, so students are made to continue their schooling at home.

“The professor was worried the practice of giving students homework could possibly be an attempt to push some of the teaching tasks to parents.”

Ling said the professor also told him based some case studies, homework has no benefit at all to children up to Primary 3, very poor benefit to Primary 4-6, minimal benefit to Forms 1-3, and only some reasonable benefit to Forms 4-5.

“Thus, we feel compelled to ask why students and families have to be put through all the stresses for such poor gains. Surely, time could be better spent developing other life skills,” he added.

Risk of loathing school

Fellow parent Levin Wong said children need rest after long school hours and the burden of additional homework may make them loathe schooling.

He pointed out that parents should encourage their children to focus on their lessons in class and relax after school so that they wouldn’t find education a chore – nor miss out on their growing up years.

He added that children would be better off spending some time in sports and other creative pursuits than being mentally burdened with the drudgery of homework.

Of course, others may feel some form of homework is necessary to reinforce what students have learnt, especially as they progress to upper primary school and have to study more subjects.

“But when both parents and students start suffering from homework-induced anxiety, then it’s time to sound the alarm bells,” Wong emphasised.


Samantha Lim, who migrated to Australia with her family about a year ago, said if homework was just about doing schoolwork at home, she would give it a big thumbs-down.

She does not support the idea of giving homework, especially to primary school or kindergarten pupils but pointed out that if homework were about asking children to do additional fun reading, learning to help their parents with the house chores or play some sports, then she would agree to it 100 per cent.

Lim insisted all schoolwork should be done within school hours and not brought back to be completed at home.

She felt the conventional homework was already a very old-fashioned concept and should be discontinued, reiterating that school children under 12 years old should not be physically and, more importantly, emotionally burdened with homework with the strict instruction they must complete it or be punished.

Lim said when she was still living in Kuching, she was surprised to learn some parents considered homework as very important to their children, even as young as six years old, adding that even if the children cried while struggling with the bulk of homework, the parents did not mind.

“No wonder when my son, Shaymus, was still in kindergarten, I used to see him struggling under the weight of homework, and when it came to his final year, I was shocked to see how much more homework he was given.

“I was told the amount of homework was increased following complaints from parents that their children were given too little of it.

“I was speechless. Didn’t they realise such a heavy workload would risk making the children hate school?”

Lim said her son later attended a private primary school in Kuching for six months before they moved to Australia. The school hours were from 7.30am to 3.30pm – meaning the children spent eight hours in school – the same time adults would commonly spend at work.

She added that although exhausted after coming home from school, her son still could not rest because he was expected do some of the work he couldn’t finish in school – plus revision for upcoming exams.

Lim considers revision for exams at home as equivalent to homework, noting that this deprived children of the time they otherwise could spend on fun reading, family bonding, sports or learning to do house chores.

“In fact, fun reading can be very beneficial to kids because through it, they can acquire extra knowledge which they can’t from textbooks,” she said, adding that having adequate family bonding time and taking part in sports are also important as they help children develop wholesome characters and keep them healthy.

Enough sleep

Lim said children must have enough sleep – nine hours at least, ideally. In short, she added, parents should raise happy healthy children instead of study-robots.

Shaymus is now attending a public school in the suburb of Melbourne where they live.

According to Lim, the school has a no homework policy – so all the schoolwork will be completed within school hours.

The only school assignment that could be regarded as homework is reading the take-home books with parental guidance, if need be.

School hours are from 9am to 3.30pm, with two to three breaks in between. Children are encouraged to play around the school compound during break times.

Lim said she noticed a significant change in Shaymus after they migrated to Australia. She believes this was due to the different school environment.

“Shaymus used to be a very quiet, shy and anxious-looking when he was in Kuching. But now, he looks to be bursting with confidence and is also a very obedient and happy kid.

“I was a bit surprised to learn that school children Down Under have certain rights. And one funny thing is the teachers reprimand the children by singing to them instead of screaming or yelling.

“I believe it’s little things like these that can make a difference to a child’s character.”

Lim once asked a teacher what she, as a mother, should do to help her son academically at home besides fun reading, and was told there was no necessity for this and she instead should spend quality time doing things together with her son.

She confessed she has become a happier person as she does not have to rush her son to school very early in the morning to beat the traffic jam nor shout and scream at him for neglecting or forgetting to do his homework.

Not overloading

Kathy Choo, a graduate of Early Child Education who now works in Perth, Australia as an early childhood teacher, believes homework could be beneficial so long as it does not overly deprive students of their free time.

She said young children need a tremendous amount of repetition of a concept to transform it from a short-term to a long-term memory.

However, she cautioned it would not be advisable to overload children with homework because they still have not acquired the ability to regulate their emotions. Besides, too much homework for little children can be stressful to their parents as well.

“As students get higher and higher in their education, so should the amount of homework be more but the increase should be gradual.

“Over time, the students’ relying on parental help will decrease as they move up to higher levels. Eventually, they will develop a sense of responsibility and independence to do their own work. By then, they are already in secondary school. Homework should be more research-based in nature.”

Choo said she supported the idea of giving young children homework but minimally, considering they also have activities outside school.

She believes homework could provide a sense of continuity in learning – from school to home and vice versa.

“After all, we must remember parents are children’s first teachers at home,” she added.

According to Choo, at the preschool where she teaches, the focus is more on play-based learning because children below nine learn better through play.

“Basically, very young children learn about things by using the five senses – touch, taste, see, hear, and smell. Thus, their place of learning will usually have a lot of manipulative items for them to explore and experience.”

She said the children in her school do not carry bags laden with books, adding that the youngsters just go to school with bags containing only a drink bottle, a lunch pack, and a homework folder for updates.

She explained the teachers taught concepts through the manipulative modus operandi, following up with academic activities, involving books, pencils, worksheets, art or crafting tools.

“Individual human beings differ from one another in character and aptitude. Thus, the teachers have to study these differences and divide the students into groups – even when they are in the same class – according to their learning abilities.

“This allows the teachers to tailor their teaching methods in a more detailed manner to suit the learning needs of the student groups. This means the homework assignments the students bring home are not the same.

“There’s always the close personal monitoring of the students’ progress for groups or individuals and it’s always possible some students can be moved from one group to another after their progress has been assessed.”

Choo said the so-called homework children do in her school usually require very little time and effort and they are more fun than toil.

“The idea is not to give the little ones too much stress but make them feel schooling is a pleasant thing.”

According to her, some schools in Australia even go to the extent of considering the demographics of the area in which the schools are located.

If most of the families consist of both working parents, then homework will be kept to a minimum so as not to burden both parents and students. And students showing difficulties in their studies may have their parents called in for discussion to see how the problem might be solved.

Different views

Jacob Anding of Kota Samarahan, a father of five children from primary to lower secondary schools, has a different view of homework.

He said he always liked to see his children busy with homework after coming home from school.

“I don’t to see them too free and up to all sorts of mischief,” he said with a laugh.

“I especially dislike them fighting with me for the TV remote control. I want to watch my favourite sports channel after dinner to unwind from a hard day’s work.”

Jacob believes school children should be kept as busy as possible with their studies, saying, “After all, their duty as students is to study. Thus, homework will make students study, especially those who never show any initiative to do revision.”

Violet Benling, a Primary 2 pupil from a private school in Kuching was asked what she would do without homework and she replied, “I can draw pictures, do colouring, watch YouTube or read storybooks.”

She said she didn’t want to feel like she was still in school after coming home.

thesundaypost could not get comments from school authorities as they are not allowed to give press statements without prior approval.

Sumber diperolehi daripada Borneo Post Online


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