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Some time ago, parents in the primary school expressed their concerns to me about the amount of homework that is set here, in comparison to government schools. This is not a surprise to hear, and it is a point that many of us at the school has heard on many occasions – that not enough homework is given at our school, or in international schools generally. Firstly, I would like to open the question to a little bit of research;

http://www.nfer.ac.uk/nfer/PRE_PDF_Files/02_27_02.pdf

From the above, it would appear that the question of homework can be described at best, as a complex and difficult one. Critics of too much homework will point to a need for balance in life and that after a long day at school, from 8-4pm, plus travel, that to ask for another two or three hours of nightly homework for Primary students would be too much. They will also point to a need for quality family life and some early nights in order to get enough sleep to function properly; with Doctors recommending ten to twelve hours a night for primary aged students;

http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/parents/sleep_matters/

So, if a student comes home at 4.30 and relaxes for half an hour, then where is the time to go to bed at 8-9pm and still have showered, eaten dinner, relaxed, spent some quality time with family and completed two or three hours of homework? Clearly, it would be impossible, and would quickly turn a child against homework or at worst, cause untold amounts of stress for both the child and their family.

This is what critics would say.

However, it is not a view that I entirely subscribe to. Although all valid and important points, it must be remembered that homework can still be vital in reinforcing learning and helping students to progress in their understanding. When done well, it can be interesting, fun and valuable. Homework can involve parents, it can take the children out of the home to explore and it can develop skills such as research, analysis and independent thinking – when set properly. What I’m trying to get at here, is that the focus should be upon quality rather than quantity. I understand as a parent myself, that we like to see lots of homework, because then we know and feel reassured that there’s lots of learning happening, right? That for the fees that are being paid, we’re getting value for money. I also understand the cultural expectation, having lived in Asia for most of my adult life and worked in many schools throughout Asia, that traditionally many schools set loads of homework, so there is an important need to hit the middle ground. We have tried to do that here, and have a homework policy at our school that is outlined in the parental handbook. In our opinion it would not be healthy to set more. I sometimes think that on occasions, setting so much homework should actually cause parents to ask why? What’s happening during classwork? I know from personal experience that such small classes like we have in a new school can mean that you get through curriculum very quickly and with greater security. Some schools may set more homework because of a lack of work completed in schools with big classes. Anyhow, no matter which side of the debate you are on, it’s my experience that the differing views will never completely reconcile!