Some education experts reckon homework holds little value for children, but despite some Waikato schools revamping the curse of primary school students everywhere it's not about to go away.
Sydney University associate professor Richard Walker recently argued that homework had little or no academic value for primary school children unless it was of good quality - well prepared, interesting and challenging. Parents interfering and over-controlling took most of the value out of it, especially in primary school years where students were less able to work self directed. Mr Walker said homework should not be abolished, but needed to be rethought.
"There needs to be a discussion about the nature and quality of homework tasks," he said.
Paul Cooper, principal of Hamilton's Whitiora School, said their voluntary scheme of self directed learning was "a much more positive way" of doing things and would be introduced next year.
"We are moving away from specific directed homework and have a series of challenges that students can opt in and do and receive recognition. It's self directed and and involves the family," Mr Cooper said.
"It might be cooking three dinners, it might be some sort of service, learning new skills, they will have to show evidence of it at the end. The evidence might be a photo, bringing in a model, or parents have to sign that it's done," Mr Cooper said. "Almost like the Duke of Edinburgh ward scheme."
Students will be able to choose from tasks in five categories: Academic Excellence, Excellence in the Arts, Giving and Others, Physical Activity and Service to the School and Community.
Mr Cooper recently saw such a scheme in operation at a Christchurch school and decided to adapt it for his school.
Whitiora School student Levi Lurman, 11, was excited about the proposed changes.
"It sounds better than homework," he said. "I think we need more sports, like soccer training, and more maths."
His mother, Desiree Williams, said the school already sent "outdoorsy" tasks home but she would like to see more.
"It sounds really good to me," she said. "Bring it on."
Rhode Street School, in Dinsdale, Hamilton, has also scrapped traditional homework.
Principal Shane Ngatia said his teachers tried to teach life skills in the tasks they set students at home. "It's not homework in the traditional sense," he said. "It might be looking at the supermarket receipt and working out what you have spend on food."
Murray McDonald, principle of Aberdeen School in Dinsdale, Hamilton, saw the irony in Mr Walker's findings. "The fact that he's an associate professor means that he has done a lot of homework himself," he said. "I don't think homework can have too much value if it's not related to what the children are participating in in the classroom.
"If they are studying the Paralympics I don't expect them to be told to go home and study the grizzly bear from a worksheet," he said.
Terry Locke, Professor of English Language Education in the Arts and Language Education Department at Waikato University, said Mr Walker's findings invited a useful conversation around the purpose and effectiveness of homework.
"We need to get away from the kind of moral imperative implicit in the attitude that homework is good for you, which is not unlike the imperative that grammar is good for you.
"Some kinds of homework are not effective and, if meaningless, can be demotivating.
"A similar comment can be made about certain ways of teaching grammar, which can actually put students off writing."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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