Homework should not be an option for schools in poor communities.
The issue of giving homework at primary schools is a hot potato. Generally, schools believe that homework is an important learning activity. This is where the similarity ends. At wealthier schools, homework is an embedded whole school practice. At the other end of the spectrum where we find poor schools, homework as a school-wide learning activity is practically non-existent. Why is this so?
Homework culture at poor schools
Teachers at poor schools tell me that giving homework is a waste of time. They say the homework is never done because the parents are not interested. Teachers will list other issues like the following: parents work long hours, the caregivers of many of their children are grandparents or parents are unable to help children with their homework. Teachers respond by not setting homework assignments at all. Sadly, this decision is not shared with parents and in the main, parents do not question this either.
Homework culture at wealthy schools
Teachers at wealthier schools give homework most of the time. These schools expect parents to play an active role because they believe the parents are able to do so. The parents of children at these schools are usually the ones who complain about the volume of homework.
They will complain to the school, write letters to the newspapers, blog about their frustrations and even complain to the education department. In most cases, the school will review the volume and the weekly frequency. The parents' voice is heard and acknowledged. But, the school will not stop giving homework to their children.
The cultural divide is deepened.
The perception is that the children at the wealthier schools are receiving more learning opportunities and engagements with their parents concerning their schoolwork. The poorer children who are already at a disadvantage because of their book-poor homes, poorly educated parents, have fewer chances of doing schoolwork under supervision at home.
There is an even bigger problem. Teachers think for the parents and the learners without any regard for their views. Teachers at the poor schools may subconsciously sabotage parent-child-school relationships by NOT giving homework. An interesting study by The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (2008) here, discusses how teachers' views, attitudes and language towards parents may either empower parents or deepen inequality.
Review the homework policy and practice as an extended learning opportunity.
Schools that do not enforce the homework policy as a school-wide practice, should review their stance. We need to interrogate our beliefs about poor parents and examine how our practices may be prejudiced and shortsighted. The quick-fix response of not setting homework because of a lack of parent support cannot be justified. We need to find creative ways to maximize the learning opportunities for disadvantaged children.
Do you think that homework is a good practice or a waste of time? I would love to hear your views.