Abolishing the notion of homework in schools seems ridiculous - it’s almost like abolishing school itself. However, when you consider the overflowing evidence against the practice, how could it be logical to keep homework?
by Maanas Shah
Homework is something that has been firmly linked to the notion of school ever since its conception many decades ago. When one thinks of school, the struggles of math problems, english essays, or history projects almost instantly fill their heads If someone says they hate school, it's almost guaranteed they will cite homework as the main source.
But, of course, homework is necessary to our schooling process, is it not? It's a cornerstone for reinforcing and practicing the ideas we learn. Besides, how else would we be able to truly learn if we did not have homework? How else would we be able to evaluate a student’s performance? One of homework’s main purposes is to reflect the abilities of a student and determine how much effort a student has put into an assignment, and reward them with the points they deserve. So, it is crucial for grades and evaluation.
However, over the years, countless studies and research have found that there is no true benefit to homework. In fact, according to much of the data, it seems that homework may actually be detrimental to student performance mentally and academically. Stanford research and National Education Association guidelines both emphasize the need to reduce the amount of homework given, citing significant mental, social, and in turn academic, detriments as a result of homework. Though it may seem wild, many institutions around the world have been using this “no-homework” approach and are able to boast matching results. Finnish [Finland] schools, for example, assign basically no homework, and yet they are consistently in the top three education systems in the entire world.
This is where the Trilemma about assigning homework in schools lies: should we follow an ancient educational tradition, a radical new theory, or a possible stance in-between the two extremes?
The benefits of homework should be fairly obvious to anyone who has gone through any level of schooling as it was assigned almost every day of school.. First of all, a system of daily assignments provides a way for students to assess their own academic situations and practice/build on it, while also allowing their teachers to monitor their progress. In other words, homework provides a way for teachers to be aware of any difficulties a student might have and what they might need to review for the next lesson.
Homework can also serve as a significant source of points, and can act as a buffer for final grades/evaluations. Without homework, a student’s grade would only be based on the scores of their assessments. While assessments are designed to diagnose the skill level of a student and award an appropriate amount of points, they are often worth a very large and disproportionate portion of the overall grade. This can often result in situations where one mistake on a single test or quiz can significantly affect one's entire term grade. Homework can act as a fair and balanced buffer against these effects for hard-working students who deserve it.
Additionally, homework can teach students important life-skills. For example, homework allows children to cultivate the skill of time-management in children. Allowing students to manage their work and giving them the responsibility to turn in their work at a set due date helps in the development of the essential life skill. Time and work management is needed all throughout one’s life, and developing it as a child is a huge advantage, and basic necessity. In addition to time management, homework can help students learn about responsibility and accountability in completing their assigned work. They are the ones who are accountable for their own work and are responsible for completing it, even if they may have to sacrifice some other enjoyable activity on the way.
While the advantages of homework seem clear, there are actually several important disadvantages that are key to consider as they can be quite detrimental to students. While homework may seem like a useful tool to benchmark and practice skills learned at school, its effects might not be as significant as originally thought.
First of all, a student’s academic performance or skill cannot be accurately assessed from a single homework assignment, or even project. For example, it is quite easy for struggling students to fake their way through homework by simplifying copying it from a textbook answer key, the internet, or their friends, or by writing half-baked answers with minimal effort. Additionally, projects and other large assignments typically place a large emphasis on presentation and not the actual content itself, leaving many academically strong students to struggle due to them not having as much talent in other areas such as art or public speaking.
Secondly, it is not effective. Those who are well off on a specific homework subject might feel annoyed if they have to complete a tedious assignment on a busy day and would only harbor resentment against the subject. Those who struggle with specific topics would not get adequate practice as homework is only repeated exercise and not actual lessons. As a result, these students would be motivated to cheat on their homework to gain its points, but in turn they would not be able to develop proper skills at school or at home, as the teacher would have no way of knowing until a potentially large assessment.
Having no homework would provide students with a better state of mind, which, of course, comes with many benefits. Homework is a huge source of stress for many students and it is never worth diminishing the health of a student, especially just for some minor benefits. Additionally, abolishing homework would give students more free time for themselves, and can improve their mental health ( i.e. they can develop a better sleep schedule, socialize more with others, practice hobbies).
Lastly, if there is no homework there would be little to no reason to resent school as students would have adequate time for themselves and a better mental state. Many more students would be willing to focus and properly learn at school, where it is the most effective, which would be an effective increase to their education.
Is there any middle ground between these two stances? Well, in education there always has been a great amount of diversity in tactics. While some schools might choose to give hours of homework, others will choose to replace homework with different methods in-school.
On one hand there are all the benefits of a strict and rigorous homework system, but all the downsides of it as well, and the same applies for the opposite stance against homework. However, in between both arguments is a whole host of options for anyone looking to maximize the benefits of both sides of the argument. For example, a popular choice is having optional homework which would serve as a practice to those who need it, but could be avoided by those who are already masters of the subject. Another choice could be having minimal mandatory work, but mostly optional work, following the structure above. Students might be awarded a small number of extra points if they chose to complete this optional work as a reward. Overall, there are infinite possibilities and combinations that can form a system of homework, or lack thereof, in a school, but each will come with its own unique advantages and disadvantages.