The statement by Maharashtra School Education Minister Deepak Kesarkar on Friday contemplating a proposal to do away with homework for all school-going children between grades 1-4 has sparked some strong opinions from the education fraternity in the city. Most teachers and principals see homework as an extension of classwork and as an essential part of learning.
“People generally tend to misunderstand the way the assignment or the homework has been given. Homework needs to be looked at as an extension of what has been taught in the classrooms. Homework just becomes the recapitulation of that same thing. In subjects like math and science where you have numerical and problem-solving questions, it is often said that the more practice one does, the clearer the concepts become,” said Ritu Mendiratta, principal of The Stepping Stone School.
Mendiratta added by saying that in the global trend in education, the idea of a project or research work is prevalent as the learning that has happened in the closed confines of a classroom, can then be implemented in a practical way. “It will not be a burden if the homework is made interesting for the children. The children between grades 1 to 4 emulate the teachers so much and listen more to them than their parents. So we engage them with ‘homework’ which is interactive as we have to start looking at homework as an extension of what one learns in the classroom, rather than filling pages or decorating charts,” she said.
Rita Katawati, principal of Hutchings School, said, “Homework is for the child to revise. Doing away with homework is not a good idea at all. There needs to be little revision at home too. For example, they can be given an extra reading on a particular topic and can be asked to write their opinion on that. Homework should be based on imagination, innovation, and projects which should be done at home only. Otherwise, the children will engage in all kinds of distractions at home.”
Jyothi Kadkol, principal (primary section), Dr Kalmadi Shamarao High School stated that in the formative years of education, children need support from the home front. “In fact, sending children to tuition burdens the children. Some children with learning disabilities undergo interventions or empowering sessions and they need different support in learning from their parents. Homework need not be visualised as strenuous writing work. It can be some exploration and small activities that help children observe and understand, giving them more time,” she said.
Mendiratta said that homework should be graduated and progressed in a set manner and that teachers give mindful homework. “If we take the case of learning a language, the four basic steps are listening, speaking, reading and writing in that particular order. Now if we concentrate on that while setting up the homework, then the child will understand that it is not only about writing but also listening to the language, understanding how to pronounce the words and then reading with the nuance.”
“It is essential as children at this age have a very short memory and after every period of 35-40 minutes, the mind and mood change in the classrooms often and after the last two years, the challenges are even more. They did not have an idea to sit that long in the classrooms. So, considering all this, this is a crucial age to not immediately take a decision of stopping homework but rather, give mindful homework,” Mendiratta added.
Sandhya Shrotri, an English teacher, also said that homework should not be cancelled but needs to be mindful. “Several schools give project work but children either Google the answers or the parents do it for them. It is a big no-no as the homework is for the children, for their understanding. If the homework is based on something taught in the class, it will definitely be completed. It should be a matter of self-study and revision and children should come with their doubts to be cleared in school the following day. For Math and Science, you need homework. In the case of languages, one can read a paragraph or write a four-line essay. Simple addition in math between grades 1-4 if they solve say five sums at home, it should not be a burden or interfere with their time. Homework will help them with habits to get things on their own at home. Everything cannot be left in the hands of the school you see,” she said.
“When we were children, homework was stressful as we filled pages of the assignment and even after completion, we were also anxious about carrying the notebook to school the next day. We, as teachers, try to give homework to children in such a way that they do not need a notebook. For example, in one of my classes, we learnt the synonyms of water by not writing them down. Instead, I asked them to use the word around them. After teaching them a chapter, I asked them to illustrate the story in their notebook for homework and whenever he opens the page, they will be able to recall it instantly,” said Swati Patil, a Hindi-Marathi teacher.
Even parents are against the idea of doing away with homework entirely.
Manik Mane, parent and vice-president of the Executive Parent-Teacher Association of The Stepping School, said, “The issue is not that the homework is a burden, the issue is that the child is not doing studies. As parents do not wish their child to study for more than eight hours, they say to reduce the homework. But if the child wants to do well, they have to study. Homework may not just be given in the form of pen and paper but in the form of activities, scripts to enact or games to engage in. There is no rigorous homework between grades 1-4 but maybe just reduce it a smidge, to reduce the number of hours children spend doing the said homework.”