What is interesting about Mr Hollande’s suggestion of abolishing homework is that it’s not to give children time to run freely in fields, or avoid dull, repetitious work but, rather, a way to level the socio-economic playing field. Poor children, the French president argued, are less likely to get help from parents with their homework, so they’re set up to fail.
The issue of homework is on the minds of many parents ahead of the Christmas school holidays. With all of the other highs and lows of enforced familial togetherness around the holiday, there is also the threat of rows over homework assignments.
This week, a mother writes:
My daughter, who is nine, spends at least an hour each night completing her homework assignments, which she finds quite stressful.
She has endless maths problems, which seem dull and repetitive, and her vocabulary assignments also seem to me to be a waste of time.
I am not a teacher, so I am reluctant to tell her school how to teach, but I hate seeing my daughter chained to her desk at home when she could be outside playing.
Have any parents had productive discussions with their child’s teacher about the amount of homework their child is getting? Any tips on how to (politely) broach the subject?
How do you think this would go over in the United States? French President François Hollande has said he will end homework as part of a series of reforms to overhaul the country’s education system.
And the reason he wants to ban homework?
He doesn’t think it is fair that some kids get help from their parents at home while children who come from disadvantaged families don’t. It’s an issue that goes well beyond France, and has been part of the reason that some Americans oppose homework too.
Hollande’s reform plans include increasing the number of teachers, moving the school week from four days to 4 1/2 days, overhauling the curriculum and taking steps to cut down on absenteeism.
“Education is priority,” Hollande was quoted as saying by France24.com at Paris’s Sorbonne University last week. “An education program is, by definition, a societal program. Work should be done at school, rather than at home,” as a way to ensure that students who have no help at home are not disadvantaged.
Despite the four-day school week, elementary school children in France spend more hours a year in school than many other developed countries because students are there all day, starting at 8:30 a.m. and ending at 4:30 p.m., with some kids staying even later.
It’s not clear where the money to hire thousands more teachers will come from, but, the Associated Press reported, Education Minister Vincent Peillon will have to figure out how to implement the reforms. One option is to shorten summer vacation, though, such a move isn’t likely to be popular because it is practically sacrosanct in France.
Whether Hollande really gets all of this done is open to question. But his homework position is not original; some school districts in the United States did the same thing going back more than a century. Early in the 1900s, the influential Ladies’ Home Journal magazine called homework “barbarous,” and school districts such as Los Angeles abolished it in kindergarten through eighth grade. In fact, some educators said it caused tuberculosis, nervous conditions and heart disease in the young and that children were better off playing outside. The American Child Health Association in the 1930s labeled homework and child labor as leading killers of children who contracted tuberculosis and heart disease.
Today people who oppose homework have different objections, among them, the research that suggests it doesn’t really help young children learn.