A ten-year-old boy who immolated himself in Bijapur succumbed to his injuries on Saturday. The fourth standard student was reportedly depressed because his teacher had threatened to punish him if he did not do his homework.
The child was admitted to hospital with severe burns last week after his suicide attempt. No case has been registered against the teacher. The incident came to light after the boy was found missing at the school prayer meeting.
Ironically, had just read yesterday, in times of india view and counter view on the issue
Still a key part of education
According to the study carried out by University of Virginia researchers – one in which they looked at the transcripts and grades of more than 18,000 Xth grade students – homework doesn’t necessarily help children get higher grades, although it may help them get better standardised test scores. On the face of it, the criticism is valid in India as well. Students in a large number of schools here – both public and private – are burdened with large amounts of homework from an early age. But to conclude from this that homework per se is unnecessary would be to throw out the baby with the bathwater.
Does homework need to be rethought so that it is less of a burden and engages the child more effectively? Certainly. As the co-author said, homework should be used to integrate what is going on in the classroom, not simply make the student work for the sake of working. That being said, having homework in some form at least is essential in the Indian system where teacher quality, interest and student per teacher ratio are all often below acceptable norms. In such an environment where classroom learning can be painfully inadequate, homework’s supplementary effect can be crucial. The homework-free style can only work in an ideal education system, and India’s is very far from that.
Even more importantly, the study only measures a narrow, quantifiable aspect of homework’s effects. There are other intangibles that are crucial. Handling homework equips students with a whole set of work and life skills – from taking responsibility for one’s work to work discipline to learning how to research information – that are essential in work life and higher education. And isn’t learning those skills as much a part of a child’s education as learning how to score well in an exam?
Homework should be abolished
School is stressing out our youngsters, as evidenced in the high number of school students committing suicide. We should, therefore, be committed to removing stress from the school system. A primary contributor to stress is the oppressive burden of daily homework foisted on the student. Wrestling with piles of homework, whose load seems to increase every day, parent and kids alike are exhausted in equal measure. The truth is that much of the take-home assignments are simply an act of faith, without benefiting the overworked students.
After long-drawn school hours, kids return home and immediately get down to tackling the day’s homework. Where is the time to relax and do other extra-curricular activi-ties? Little wonder that kids, these days, appear highly-strung and reluctant to go to school. School-related stomachaches, headaches, sleep problems and depression are on the rise. The constant pressure of moving from one deadline to another leaves them perpetually harassed. Parents too have a hard time, often doing a major part of the homework to help out the child. Is homework necessary to get good grades? There’s no foundation for this belief. The fear and pressure of homework exhaust students, killing their curiosity and most importantly their keenness and desire to learn. In many countries like the US, Denmark and Japan, schools have cut down on or entirely eliminated homework, since it contributes nothing to learning or creativity.
At home the debate over homework is yet to have an impact. Even though there’s been discussion around inordinately heavy school bags which burden children, directly linked to the issue of homework. More than a decade ago the Yashpal committee report had proposed concrete suggestions to lessen the school bag load. Regrettably, they haven’t yet come to fruition. Junk the pointless system of homework, and don’t overburden our kids.