It is time to rethink our teaching methods
fter a busy day at school, most students return home with loads of homework and assignments. Our educationists believe that giving students assignments to complete at home is a way of inculcating responsibility in children and keeping them busy. But in reality, excessive homework puts pressure on young children and their parents. Instead of helping, it can very well cause unnecessary tension in growing children and make them feel overburdened.
There is no homework for students in Finland. Finnish believe that spending time with parents and participating in creative activities after school is more important for a child’s mental stimulation.
Pakistan still follows the colonial system of education, where good grades are rewarded. We need to realise that producing cramming goats cannot give us a competitive advantage in the world. Most parents engage their children in private tuition to finish the homework on time. If a student spends six hours at school, it is enough time for learning and mental exercises. The heavy bags do not mean students are carrying all the knowledge on their shoulders. It is a failure of our education system that we still believe students can improve their skills through baggage.
A few months ago, a man was arrested for allegedly setting his son on fire for not doing school homework in their Orangi Town house. The police claimed that the incident took place when Naeem* poured kerosene oil on his 12-year-old son, Sameer*, and set him on fire. The boy suffered critical burn wounds and was taken first to the nearby Sindh Government Qatar Hospital and then moved to the Burns Centre of the Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK). He died during treatment later. The police said that the father was arrested and a case has been registered against him on the complaint of the victim’s mother.
The father in the Orangi Town case intended to punish and scare his son into doing his homework. However, further investigation must be conducted in cases like these to assess the mental condition of the convict. Nonetheless, the incident is an example (of the worst kind) of pressure the current system can put on a family. Homework in manageable, reasonable amounts might benefit young minds by instilling good habits, but anytime it begins to take away from their lives as social beings, the situation calls for a reassessment.
Most parents need help understanding and finding the best possible ways of engaging their children in learning activities apart from school-assigned homework.
Alfie Kohn is an American author and lecturer who has researched and written on education extensively. Kohn, in his famous book, The Homework Myth, has discussed many important issues related to homework; for instance, homework being a burden on parents, stress-inducing for children, a possible cause of family conflicts, etc. He quotes a frustrated father who said homework is “a curse put on parents.” The father, Kohn writes, said so in front of his child, who replied, “If you think it is difficult for parents, you should ask a kid. It’s horrible.”
Most attentive parents can testify that their children are chronically frustrated because of homework—weepy, stressed out and fed up. Some are better able than others to handle the pressure of keeping up with a continuous flow of assignments, getting it all done on time and turning out products that will meet with the teacher’s approval.”
Our education system is still focused on conformity, not creativity. The lack of intelligent growth is related to the lack of syllabus revision, creating a space for new ideas, creative freedom and a lack of understanding that parameters being used to determine intelligence and learning need an upgrade and a rethink.
It is a common desire among parents that their children get good grades. They calculate the child’s mental prowess based on academic records that are provided by schools or educational boards. However, most parents are unable to understand and find the best possible ways of engaging their children in learning activities apart from school-assigned homework. The society is changing, the world is changing, and qualified individuals of today have to be dynamic. There cannot be a single tunnel approach to producing successful people in a world where the definition of success is taking new forms every day.
Homework does not have to be a terrible nuisance. If students feel overburdened, we must rethink our teaching methods.
The writer is a fiction writer, blogger and journalist