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Gerardo Castillo Ceballos, Professor of the School of Education and Psychology of the University of Navarra

No to homework

Thu, 07 Mar 2019 09:48:00 +0000 Published in Diario de Navarra, Las Provincias and Diario Montañés

I imagine that the mere reading of degree scroll of this opinion piece article will upset some parents: "Another progressive pundit undervaluing grades, leaving students helpless in a competitive society," they will think. Other parents will rejoice: "It's about time someone demystified the usefulness of homework." There is no consensus on the desirability and usefulness of homework. In my opinion, they have been ascribed unrealistic possibilities. Supposedly, they serve to create habits of autonomous work and manager, reinforce what has been learned at classroom, fill in the program of the different subjects and involve parents in their children's programs of study . If only this were true. These possibilities are educational goals of great value in themselves, but, in my long experience, they are fulfilled only in very few cases. I think they would be fulfilled more and better at another time and in another setting. The real status is the following: children who get up very early to leave home with their backpack or suitcase of books; who return very tired, after a minimum of six hours of class; that the mind and body ask for a truce so as not to do "more of the same" and rest, finally having a deserved and necessary free time for creative leisure (not for idleness), with playful, sporting, artistic, etc. activities. But, unfortunately, homework does not allow for truces. The usual thing is that each teacher assigns homework without coordination with the other teachers, so students can find themselves with an excessive load of work that can lead to study and school phobia. For some parents this is not a problem, because they mistakenly believe that the more they study, the more they learn, and that everything is not enough to be competitive in the future. According to a recent report prepared by the OECD, Spain is the fifth country with the highest homework load in a list of 38 nations. In addition, homework is the extracurricular activity to which children dedicate the most time. Is the family home usually a good place to study well? Experience shows that it is more difficult to concentrate than in a classroom or Library Services, because there is no silence and, in addition, one is exposed to many interruptions. Learning requires a minimum of continuity. The problems increase when the parents' criteria are different from those of the teachers. Another difficulty occurs when children have to do homework in an empty house; the absence of parents for reasons of work often induces children to turn on the TV and/or the "tablet" when they return from high school. Child psychiatrist Andrea Aguirre, from the Clínica Universidad de los Andes, maintains that "ideally, children should do all academic activities at high school. The time and space defined for learning and study should be centralized in the school, which is the place where children should apply what they have learned, and not take time away from spaces for rest, play and social relations. Several programs of study have proven that doing more and more homework or dedicating more hours to study in schedule after school does not mean that children learn more and better. The overload in this subject can generate stressed children, with somatizations that manifest themselves in physical pain, discouragement, anxiety and even school phobia". On the other hand, homework does not usually develop learning skills. The excessive burden of work homework is a clear symptom that learning in school time is not well planned. For example, if most classes consist of taking notes on the lessons dictated by teachers, there is no time left for study staff; on the other hand, if teachers do not explain everything, much time is gained for autonomous learning, and, moreover, in an environment that is more favorable for study than the home environment. Some teachers mistakenly believe that what they do not explain is not learned; also that in order to develop the whole program of the subject it is necessary to explain everything. In my long task of training of teachers I always include training them to convert some classes into "Directed Study". This way you get a lot of study time staff and the class is more internship; moreover the students learn to study with the guidance of the teacher. In each session the topic of the day is worked on; only the method changes. I think this approach leaves homework "out of the picture" unless it is reduced to recreational reading.