By: Simon Collins

Greg Fleming, pictured with son Toby, 12, is a “huge fan” of children learning in a relationship with their parents. Photo / Brett Phibbs

More than a third of New Zealand teachers and parents say they are increasingly doubting the value of homework.

A Massey University survey of school teachers, parents and students has found that the students overwhelmingly agree that homework makes them “frustrated and tired” (68 percent) and doesn’t leave enough time for other activities after school (67 per cent).

But it has found all three groups divided on whether the stress is worthwhile.

Almost all the students (93 per cent) said they had to do homework, and 82 per cent of the teachers said they assigned it.

Associate Professor Alison Kearney said homework was “deeply embedded in the culture of schools and thus has rarely been questioned”.

But when she asked them, 37 per cent of teachers agreed with the statement, “I am increasingly doubting the value of homework.” Only 38 per cent disagreed, with the rest uncertain.

An almost identical 38 per cent of parents agreed that they, too, were “increasingly doubting the value of homework”, with 41 per cent disagreeing.

And students also split down the middle when asked if they agreed that, “My homework is a waste of time” – 37 per cent agreed and 36 per cent disagreed.

A parent support charity, the Parenting Place, is a firm supporter of homework, saying that any new skill requires lots of practice.

“Even when the classroom teacher sets no homework, making a regular time with your child at home to practise the reading, writing, and maths skills being taught in class can help them learn those skills much easier and faster,” it says.

“The most valuable homework that can be set is just reading. That is by far and away the best way for parents to interact with their children as well.

“The parent can say, ‘Hey, why don’t I read some of this chapter to you?’ Now you have learning going on in the context of a relationship. I’m a huge fan of that.”

Most parents agree. A massive 73 per cent told Kearney they “like to be involved in helping with my child’s homework”. Only 17 per cent disagreed.

Despite their growing doubts, 56 per cent of parents agreed that “my child benefits overall from doing homework”. Only 23 per cent disagreed.

Almost three-quarters (73 per cent) agreed that homework “helps my child to develop study skills”, 70 per cent agreed that it “teaches my child responsibility” and 68 per cent agreed that “helps my child to develop discipline”.

Many students also agreed. Asked whether they felt that “homework helps me be responsible for my own learning”, 50 per cent of the students agreed and only 24 per cent disagreed – even though an overwhelming 78 per cent also agreed that “my homework can be stressful for me” and 44 per cent said it “can be stressful for my family”.

Kearney said there was actually little evidence in the literature of the academic value of homework in primary and middle school, and there was clear evidence that it added to other pressures on children.

“In this study, children and young people are saying that homework is stressful for their family, that it makes them frustrated and tired, that it does not help them learn or be responsible, and that it does not leave them time for other activities,” she said.

All 2500 NZ schools were invited to take part on the research but replies were received from only 755 parents, 424 students and 193 teachers.

Secondary schools accounted for 54 per cent of the parents, 60 per cent of the teachers and 72 per cent of the students. The researchers are still analysing the results by age group.

Source: NZ Herald


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