Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an APNZ reporter based in Christchurch.

Try playing instead of homework

Educators say Kiwi kids are better off doing exercise or learning a musical instrument out of school hours.

New Zealand needs a national set of guidelines for homework levels, says a PTA leader.  Photo / Getty Images
New Zealand needs a national set of guidelines for homework levels, says a PTA leader. Photo / Getty Images

Children are better off playing after school than doing hours of homework, educators say.

The comments come after a University of Canterbury study found that Muslim students living and studying in Christchurch are stunned at how little homework they receive.

The students, aged between 10 and 18 and originally from Singapore, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Somalia, are revelling in their newfound freedom, and experts back the low levels of extra-curricular work.

"Kiwi kids should be out exercising, playing sport, or learning musical instruments [rather] than doing hours of pointless homework," says Waikato University professor of English Language Education Terry Locke.

He rejected the suggestion Kiwi children did not get enough homework.

There's no standardised level of homework, or national guidelines, and neither should there be, he said.

Schools and teachers within schools varied "enormously" in their attitude towards after-school work, he said, but should always tailor it to the study programme.

Private schools probably put on more pressure for homework than state schools, he believed.

Last year, an Australian education expert said giving children hours of homework every week didn't do them any good. "In countries where they spend more time on homework, the achievement results are lower," said Associate Professor Richard Walker of Sydney University's education faculty.

"There are other things kids want to do that are very valuable things for them to be doing."

Finland, which has one of the world's most successful and admired education systems, gives zero homework to primary school children. And high school students barely get any more.

Post Primary Teachers' Association (PPTA) president Angela Roberts said Finland should be held up as an example of how to do things.

"The best thing you can do with your kids after school if you have the chance is not to sit and do homework with them, but to play with them," she said.

"That's where kids develop their imagination, creativity, collaborative skills, and all sorts of things that New Zealand society is saying are really important."

Parents should not measure how well their school is performing by how much homework is being brought home, she warned.

Ms Roberts didn't believe a national policy or guidelines on homework would be appropriate.

But she added it was critical for teachers to work with parents and tailor homework to their child's needs.

"Homework is a skill set you often have to work on with kids, just like reading," said Ms Roberts.

The University of Canterbury study, by post-graduate social work student Erin Loo, found Muslim students were used to having to cope with a lot more homework.

Despite being "extremely worried" they might not cope if they returned to their home country, the majority enjoy the extra freedom they now have.

The South Island president of the Parent Teachers Association, Michelle Palmer, believed not enough constructive homework was being handed out.

Her son, who has just started Christchurch Boys' High, was struggling because he had limited structured homework at his intermediate and primary schools.

"It's shocking," she said.

"Past teachers often said they didn't have time to make sure that homework has been done, completed, handed back, and marked.

"Now, he's at high school where it's an expected part of their curriculum and he's battling."

She didn't believe it was an isolated issue and called for a national set of guidelines for homework levels.

The Teachers Council did not wish to comment, referring queries to the Ministry of Education.

"While we can't comment specifically about the experience of Muslim students in Christchurch, what we know is the quality of homework is more important than the volume," a ministry spokeswoman said.

Comparing the answers

* Overseas students are finding their homework levels here are much lower than what they are used to.

* Experts say giving children hours of homework doesn't do any good.

* The best thing to do with your kids after school is to play with them.

* Finland gives no homework to primary school children.

- APNZ

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n6 at 02 Sep 2014 15:09:57 Processing Time: 549ms