Ditching homework, Random Acts of Kindness and lively Facebook debates. Welcome to the new decade of being an International school teacher! Gone are the days of assigning homework just for the sake of it. A compelling number of debates around assigning homework have risen. Take, for example, our recent Facebook post with the discussion topic “how regularly do you think students should receive homework? The lively and diverse responses prompted us to look into this further. Drawing on the expertise of our budding community of over a quarter million teachers we present you with the latest consensus regarding homework in International Schools. Read on to get to the bottom of such questions like, is homework a waste of time?
Should teachers overseas give homework?
In March of last year The Atlanta delved into the debate around homework in schools, kicking it off with the statement that “the practice stems in part from the fact that it’s what today’s parents and teachers grew up with themselves”. What may have worked in the past isn’t necessarily going to work now or for future generations so what better than a new decade to challenge existing norms. According to ACS International schools, who wrote a compelling post on the subject, A Stanford University study found that among 4,300 students 56 percent considered homework to be a primary source of stress. Which begs the question…is homework doing more harm than good?
Which countries spend the most time doing homework?
As overseas teachers you have probably seen your fair share of different approaches to homework. From infamous no homework Finland to notoriously hardworking China, attitudes towards homework vary according to country. In a study conducted by the OECD, looking at the amount of homework among 15 year olds, the results concluded that in Shanghai, China the students were given an average 14 hours of homework per week. Russia pulled in a close second with just under ten hours of homework per week. The rumours remain true in regard to Finland which had the least amount of homework hours with around two and a half hours per week. Surprisingly though was South Korea with around three hours. Although it goes to show that the measurements can be misleading. In South Korea, while traditional homework in public schools might not be allocated, students as young as seven or eight stay up late frequenting after school “hagwons” (for profit education institutes) and practicing their skills in a variety of subjects from English to music. The average global homework time falls at five hours a week, but international teachers overseas are questioning if this amount is reaps any benefits.
Should overseas teachers ban homework?
It is possible that assigning homework could have a negative impact on students, but according to the feedback from our community, and while traditional homework was frowned upon , the general view was that we should not disregard homework in international schools altogether. Instead, teachers overseas should consider the following factors when deciding on the relevance of homework: the age of the students, the time spent on homework tasks and the type of homework itself.
Is homework a waste of time?
ACS Egham no longer assigns traditional homework for their younger students, below aged 12, and instead opts for a personalised and tailored approach to homework. This seems to be a consensus among our Teacher Horizons community, too. In a recent chat with one of our teachers and guest writer, Jane Barnett, she shares that homework in the traditional manner doesn’t work anymore:
“I have some fairly strong opinions on homework these days. I do not believe in setting it for homework’s sake, or just because it happens to be written on a schedule for a certain day. As an art educator, I go out of my way to open up art rooms or studios for students when they need to access the facilities.”
How much time should students spend on homework?
In many countries, students are becoming as busy as their parents, with homework accounting for a large part of their time outside of school. Not only does this considerably add to stress but it can also take away valuable time for family, play and factors such as character building. In The Atlantic article they mention the “the 10-minute rule” of homework which suggests that 10 minutes of homework is to be given per night, according to your grade level. This works up to about two hours a night for those in high school.
Some of our members didn’t focus on the time but did acknowledge that they found value in giving homework, especially when it comes to building a student’s understanding. If it is relevant it is necessary:
“I give some short exercises on a regular basis. When we check the homework in class, I tell my students that completing homework is a good tool to self assess their understanding. I take notes during the class and I can then adjust for the next lesson plan.”
How old should students be to receive homework?
Much like ACS’s tailored approach, our community mainly said that homework for students under 12 shouldn’t be for many hours or fixed into the schedule. One community member stated that it depends on the age and the course; “we encourage students to practice reading – is that homework?” Another commented that for those in Middle School and IB there should be homework but set according to age. The amount of homework and expectations are different for different grades. One person suggested that students should also be rewarded for working harder at school – “if they get their work done at school, they should have the opportunity to not take work home.” It seems like the general consensus was that it is okay to give assignments for middle and high school students (and not hours of assignments) but not for elementary students, and certainly not for kindergarteners or preschoolers.
“For High School, I absolutely expect students to be putting in time out of school hours, and I do give them an indication, depending on their course and grade level, of how long this might take, so that they can plan their time accordingly. Often tasks are specific to the student or open-ended enough to be of value. Frequently they involve development or completion of work started in class, or preparation for something that will be commenced in class. This could include ‘thinking’ and mind-mapping, getting out and about to take photographs, visiting a gallery or collecting visual source material. I might do this with Middle Schoolers, too.”
Should international teachers assign homework during vacation time?
Many might agree that assigning homework over the holidays is just cruel, and often times teachers will return from vacation to hear a plethora of excuses, anyway. Sound familiar? A recent article on the topic states that “Rather than assigning homework, create a true interest in learning. They will often pursue learning about topics they like on their own. After all, this is the way of the 21st century and information is everywhere.”
What are some alternatives to Homework?
While a large number of our community didn’t believe in traditional homework they did believe in time being spent outside of the classroom in relation to learning. Some teachers will also go out of their way to allow for extra work, especially in the lead up to exams… “At this time of the year, I also go in on Sundays for my IGCSE and IB students should they need and request it. The admin in my school doesn’t always understand why, but I think you’ll find there are others, particularly in my subject, in other schools who do that too. We simply do not have enough time scheduled within the school day to be able to meet the requirements of coursework, examinations and final exhibitions. Such is life!”
In summary, while homework was not deemed as popular in the traditional sense, there was still a praise towards some extra curricular activity, be it catching up on reading or practicing some problems. The difference seems to lie in the intention. No more giving homework just for the sake of it! Another community member of Teacher Horizons said they encourage their students to practice language or undergo and interesting activity. One school went viral recently when it declared it was ditching homework and instead replacing it with Random Acts of Kindness in school. A Teacher Horizons’ partner school celebrated RAK last year, too. So, it looks like we are finally starting to put emphasis on character building activities rather than just test preparation.