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Too Much Homework

Posted in all posts, education by coleman yee on August 29, 2006

I was reading a blog post by Trisha (a teacher in Singapore) entitled “Why I Hate Teaching“.

She doesn’t really hate teaching – her post is a rant against the system under which she teaches, where she has to do everything else in addition to her teaching.

Like photocopying handouts and worksheets, collecting school fees from students – totally absurd!

Anyway, one of her complaints was that teachers have a perpetual backlog of student work to grade:

8) I hate having to keep a red pen in every one of my handbags, because I am constantly having to mark something. I hate bringing scripts with me everywhere I go. I hate it that my marking is never finished, even on the last day of the school year, because there just isn’t enough time for teachers to mark their students’ work, and because we have to do so many other non-teaching-related work.

A bulk of this grading work is a result of giving students (too much) homework.

I was never a fan of homework when I was in school. Well, most normal and mentally-sound students probably feel the same. But unlike most of my classmates, I didn’t do most of my homework. In fact, I used to get into a lot of trouble with my teachers because of that. (But that’s another story.)

But I did alright for my examinations, at least most of the time.
Not because I’m some kind of genius (I’m not), but perhaps the recent TIME article “The Myth About Homework” can shed some light:

[H]omework does not measurably improve academic achievement for kids in grade school. […]

Too much homework brings diminishing returns.

I wish I knew all this when I was a student, so I could have a more sophisticated reason (excuse?) rather than “I forgot” or “I didn’t have time” or more recently “the computer virus ate my homework”.

And perhaps if more teachers know this, they would have better reasons to give less homework and thus lighten their already-hefty loads.

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7 Responses

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  1. Erin said, on August 30, 2006 at 1:27 pm

    I agree, most parents also put stress on the students by saying, “You should be finished by now.” I remember I had a 40 page assignment for english. That means 80 different assignments front and back. In highschool I see a lot of teachers having the kids help them grade the assignments.

  2. cancer7788 said, on August 30, 2006 at 3:39 pm

    heyy.. i found this damn cool website… http://studentssketchpad.blogspot.com/2005/08/teachers-day-special.html super-uber-cool-n-funny!

    • A Man said, on November 15, 2010 at 3:23 pm

      No it isn’t

  3. Trisha said, on August 30, 2006 at 10:28 pm

    I would love to give less homework, but I need to have certain systemic requirements changed to enable this to be possible, such as:

    1) removal of a homework quota set by the school. For English at least, we have a quota of x number of essays and comprehension exercises which will be checked by the HOD.

    2) removal of file checking by HOD. Many teachers fail to see the value of file checking, but it has also been said that file checking is one of the measures of how hardworking a teacher is. Less homework = fewer things to file = lazy teacher. Unless we eliminate this simplistic measurement criteria, teachers feel they need to give more homework so they have something to show during file checking time.

    3) a determination of how much homework is considered a lot/reasonable/too little

    In Singapore, the fact that we have a huge class size (ave=40), and that every teacher has about 4 classes to teach, no matter how much homework you reduce, you end up with 100+ scripts to mark almost every week.

  4. Kelvin Tan said, on September 1, 2006 at 4:06 pm

    Reason 2 stated by Trisha is probably the biggest reason why teachers have no choice but to give lots of homework. My sympathies to these teachers.

  5. Kelvin Tan said, on September 1, 2006 at 4:08 pm

    To add to the above point, teachers are in a sort of a prisoner’s dilemma when it comes to how much homework to give.

    If every teacher in Singapore can form a cartel and decide collectively to restrict the homework given out, every teacher would benefit as reasons 2 and 3 stated by Trisha would be almost solved.

    However, every teacher has an incentive to “cheat” on the agreement and give more homework so as to impress their HOD (reason 2) or to impress society (reason 3)

    Thus, in equilibrium, we are back to teachers giving lots and lots of homework!

  6. coleman said, on September 1, 2006 at 4:41 pm

    Trisha: It’s true and unfortunate that many schools set some kind of homework quota, and some more than others. I suppose the school management and other stakeholders need to be “educated” concerning homework and other issues. But I doubt it would happen anytime soon. In the meantime, teachers just have to hang in there…


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