Should homework be eliminated in Vancouver elementary and high school classrooms? One American University professor seems to think so.
Associate Professor at the University of Arizona Etta Kralovec has been advocating for the elimination of homework for over 20 years. She co-authored a book on the subject titled “The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children and Limits Learning.”
Kralovec points to studies that say there’s no evidence that homework is beneficial for students before Junior High school, and even then, they are marginal. She said it also takes away from crucial family time, a problem that seems to be increasing in recent years because of technology overload.
But will the Vancouver School Board ever completely eliminate homework? Not likely, said Board Trustee Patti Bacchus, although she agrees with many of Kralovec’s points.
“Very often, [homework] is work that they can’t do independently,” Bacchus told Vancity Buzz.
“So I think there’s some value when they have work they can do independently, maybe reenforcing some things they’ve learned, but very often it’s a lot of pressure.”
She said it’s a lousy time of day for children’s attention spans and she thinks it did more harm than good for her own kids in terms of stress, frustration and conflicts.
Ultimately, the school board gives teachers autonomy where homework assignments are concerned, so it’s up to them to decide on an appropriate amount. Bacchus said parents often demand everything from more homework to none at all.
“Teachers are really put in a tough spot as well with mixed, and sometimes conflicting, expectations from parents, so then we have to look at the research.”
Bacchus thinks the younger the child, the less homework they should be getting and that a small amount for children of any age can be beneficial – so long as they have time for extra curricular activities.
Then there’s the question of inequalities with parent’s abilities to assist their children with homework. Education, income, and language barriers all come into play with how much help a parent can provide their child, so resources might be lacking for children who are struggling.
“Many students don’t even have a quiet place to do homework. They’re living in a crowded, small place with many other family members, there’s noise, there’s no computer, there’s no internet,” said Bacchus.
“So I think we always need to be aware that we can’t assume kids go home and they’ll be well supported and have a place and the time to do that work and someone there to assist them.”
Bacchus adds that parents can talk to their children’s teachers if they have concerns over the amount of homework they are getting on a daily basis.