In March 2018, the Ministry of Education released a decision banning schools from issuing ‘costly’ homework to students. The Sharjah Education Zone (SEZ) immediately announced that all schools in the emirate were banned from giving students homework and projects that force parents to spend heavily on materials for school projects.
The American curriculum Rising School in Dubai has recently implemented a ‘no homework’ rule, aiming to allow its students to fully develop into well-rounded adults.
While many students grow up into well rounded adults with homework, there is some theory to back up the Rising School's decision. A study carried out by Stanford University looked into the benefits of removing homework from school life. Its finding was that homework could have a detrimental impact on the learning experience.
The finding applies to all students, regardless of level of capability - although not always for the same reason. Students who struggle with learning materials may be burdened with feelings of helplessness when left to their own resources while doing homework, whereas high achievers may not find the assignments stimulating.
Stanford’s study also argued that parents are not qualified educators, and therefore might not be able to help in the most adequate way when it comes to doing homework.
Dr. Michael Bartlett, Principal of Rising School, said:
“Our ‘No Homework Policy’ allows students to explore hobbies and out of school interests, facilitating their development into well rounded adults. As a result, they are also left with ample time to get engrossed in a good book with their parents, growing their vocabulary and sparking their creativity.”
Mr Bartlett also said that minutes have been built into the timetable to do the work within the school time.
“There’s still learning and work being done, the only difference is that we have chosen to keep it in the school. For example, in our Maths class which is a 45-minute lesson, six days a week, we have kept 8 – 12 minutes of assessments with each kid at the end of the class. It’s a feedback session of sorts where the kids can ask the teacher if they have difficulty in understanding a concept in a comfortable classroom setting, rather than being with a tutor or a parent who might not know how to tackle the homework,” he explained.
While most parents still believe in the value of some homework, many are increasingly skeptical of the volumes and scale of projects some schools give their children.
A parent of a seven-year-old told WhichSchoolAdvisor.com:
"I’ve recently written to my son’s school about the ridiculous and time consuming homework he was receiving. He is thriving academically and we just couldn’t see the value in what he was doing (sometimes for up to an hour a day, plus at weekend at home. He is 7! I’ve told his teacher that we will do reading and multiplication tables at home – and that is it!” Our house is much calmer for the change – no more tears and tantrums!”
The parent added she was moving her son to a new school in September and one of the selection criteria was a school with fairly light homework.
Clearly, if parents have views on homework, it makes sense to check the school policy.
Sharjah English School (SES) has a homework that adapts to pupils, and is led by the amount of homework completed via the use of online resources. Shiobhain Brady, Head of Primary at SES told us:
“Homework is an emotive topic between parents and staff. In the past 18 months we have developed a process that supports all types of learners and parents. We feel homework should support in-class learning and also be independent for the child.”
The school uses online tools like Bug Club for reading and Sum Dog for maths, where the students can read and do mathematics based on their individual learning ability.
“The homework and the online resources are reflective of reading, spelling and mental maths, this is the consistent homework we monitor. Children do work well online, we are working to that interest especially with the boys."
However, the school also offers optional or additional homework for those who want to be challenged more. Here children are given a deadlines to submit their work.
"Homework is not graded or assessed. All the assessments are done in classroom learning. The additional homework is above and beyond the current learning at school. We don’t want to set daily homework that becomes a chore for the parent as homework should reflect the current learning of the child.”
However, it is not all one way traffic. Another school in Dubai has recently altered their homework policy for Year 3 to 6, based on the feedback received from parents to be more pro homework. The key, however, seems to be tailoring the type and volume of homework to the individual child, and supporting parents rather than leaving them to it. A spokesperson at Kent College Dubai told us:
"We had feedback from parents about our homework (or home learning as we call it) policy. With their feedback and a full review with KS2 leaders and Junior School Leadership team we recently altered the programme to provide more structure, with focused tasks in the core subjects that better suit an individuals needs in relation to academic achievement."
The school gives the information to the pupils are given the information but it is also available on each class blog so the parents can readily refer to it at home.
"Should parents ever feel they are not able to support additional activities at home then we offer Homelearning as an ECA once a week after school. It is set once a week for the child with the expectation that each task takes a maximum of 20 mins in any year group per week."
The school sets Maths, Reading and Spelling homework for each child, from Year 4 upwards with a SPAG (Spelling & Grammar) task as well. A learning matrix is given at the beginning of the term, which is an optional extension work should a child wish to do more.
A parent at Kent College told us:
"I know my daughter actually loves to have the independence to choose her own piece of homelearning as extension work, and to be honest if a week goes by and she doesn’t feel like doing extra, she doesn’t."