With concerns growing over how schools link good performance to academic load, this could be paying off to the schools but not to the children and parents, who always struggle to enroll their kids in the best performing schools regardless of their financial capabilities.
The beneficiaries (learners) also have a series of activities that they get involved in outside school. These include doing homework, watching television, helping with house chores and playing. However, the biggest percentage of the learners interviewed by Education Times said they were going to be involved in the first two activities – homework and television.
How much homework is enough?
Denise Pope, a senior lecturer at the Stanford University, School of Education in a study published in the Journal of Experimental Education, says too much homework has negative effects on one’s well-being and behaviour.
“What’s more, the negative effects can extend to students’ lives outside of school, including family, friends, and other activities,” Pope says.
However, Diana Nawato, a teacher at Les Petit de Poussins in Gasabo district, encourages parents to spend some time helping their children with homework.
“When parents help their children with homework, it makes learners understand that homework is not a punishment,” Nawato argues.
The challenge though is that when a lot of homework is given to the pupils (especially in nursery and early primary), most parents end up doing it for their little ones which defeats the whole purpose of take-home assignments.
When asked who actually does his homework, Barrack Mohammed Isa, an eight-year-old pupil at Kigali Parents said: “My mother does a big portion of my work to prepare me for school the next day, although I have to go through the work because my teachers expect some information from me the next day.”
For a child his age, much as it is important to keep him abreast with what he has learned in school, the significance of the homework is largely evidenced by his attitude and openness about how serious he takes the homework. But is it worth giving homework to students at an early age?
Parents, teachers speak out
“School assignments lose meaning to me especially when I have to do the biggest portion of the work for my son. The only benefit is that it helps me bond with my children and opens up his weak areas to me. In turn, I help the teacher identify the weak areas and together we work on them. However, this ought to be the teacher’s work since some parents might not have the luxury of time to spend it with their children as I do,” says Sheila Uwibona a mother of two.
Ian Tebukooza, a school-based mentor of Groupe Scolaire Nganzo, expresses his worries: “Much as homework seeks to evaluate whether students have grasped what is taught in class, having kindergarten students carry a pile of work can easily hoodwink teachers into believing children actually do all this work. We, however, often encourage parents to help their children based on the premise that many times children learn better and in playful environment with their parents and has actually proved to be one way of helping children grasp classroom work outside the usual classroom arrangement.”
While teachers encourage the parents to help their children with the work, parents most times worry about the pile of work because it can be tiring.
“Parents are right to be worried about stress and their children’s health says,” Mary Alvord, a clinical psychologist in Maryland and public education coordinator for the American Psychological Association.
“A little stress is a good thing,” Alvord adds. “It can motivate students to be organized. But too much stress can backfire.”
And Tebukooza agrees with the psychologist. “The more mature students especially those at secondary level can cope with the backlog of tasks without help as far as different subjects are concerned. So homework should be relative according to a student’s level of school,” he notes.
But as the saying goes, “work without play makes Jack a dull boy” and that is why education experts encourage schools to cater for both class and entertainment when making a timetable.
Mixing entertainment with school life
The most easily accessible form of entertainment besides sports is television. Holiday is when most students get to watch TV much more than they would at school. Television stations also air many programmes that certainly engage holiday makers during that short span of time.
However how much of it should be watched?
The ultimate control of how much TV and what content students should watch is left in the hands of the parents. “Too much of anything is bad”, so they say although watching with moderation is not.
“I leave them to watch as much as they want to deter them from roaming all over the neighbourhood looking for what mischief to do. It is easier to control them with TV while monitoring whether they have bathed and had their meals than go about looking for them in the entire neighbourhood,” says Caroline Byamukama, a housewife and mother of three boys.
She adds that “letting them watch educative TV shows but yet entertaining gives them knowledge on different subjects. They name themselves according to different characters of different cartoons with whose traits they have or wish to achieve most of which are identifiably of good mannerism after all this school has to continue the next day,” she adds
Time of arrival at school
Brenda Twinomujuni, a school-based mentor of Groupe Sholaire Nganzo, says the number of hours spent at school also matter.
“For most schools and kindergartens around Kigali; students are meant to be at school by 7am. While it may be convenient for the working class parents, it is can be inconveniencing for the learners. Imagine the first kindergarten student that is picked from home to school at 5am. By 7am, a child could have probably dozed off and is tired by the time school starts. It in fact impacts on how children perceive education at an early stage in life.
“For older students, laziness is killed by the early morning rise which helps to sharpen their mental agility. It has been proven that it is easier to grasp knowledge in the early hours of the morning than later in the day; the very reason why schools have morning preps,” she adds.
Schools should differentiate the needs of students according to their age and level of school.
“Gradually introducing the activities depending on the level of school could help the very young ones to appreciate school than subject them to activities similar to those of upper level students,” says George Ssemujju, a school based mentor.
He adds that “to these young students, it agitates them to go to school where they hope to learn a new skill introduced to them gradually and thereby help them systematically adjust to the different changes that school presents.”
Asuman Karenga, a teacher at G.S Nyandungu
As long as one is still in school, homework will always remain important regardless of their level of education. It instills research skills in the young children and encourages them to think.
Anitah Rutagengwa, university student
Homework is very important in facilitating effective learning but the only problem is that some teachers don’t take time to find out if the child did it by himself. Much as parents must not do the work for the pupils, they should take interest in their children’s assignments in order to supplement the teachers’ efforts.
Godfrey Nzaramba, university student
Parents should be actively involved in their children’s education. Apart from paying school fees, parents should ensure that their children do all their homework because that is one way of excelling in exams.
Alan Odero, student
Homework should be given according to one’s level of education. For Christ’s sake, why give homework to a nursery child? It makes sense if someone is in Primary Three upwards. But it should be on what they have just studied.
Homework is very important at all levels and there is no way education can become relevant without it. Such assignments compel children to concentrate on more important things like studying for fear of being punished at school and minimise on aimless playing.
It is through early assignments such as homework that one’s seriousness can be gauged. Infact, I always feel good when I go back home and my little sister calls me to help her with homework. This shows the determination and seriousness she attaches to studies.