When we imagine childhood, we think of exploration, creativity, and boundless energy. However, for many children around the globe, particularly in the United States, these vibrant images are overshadowed by stacks of homework. Today, Adam Caller, our CEO at Tutors International, peels back the pages of this all-too-common narrative, urging us to reconsider the role and impact of homework.
Our founder and CEO, Adam Caller, offers insights into a topic he believes is ripe for scrutiny. "Children are being overstretched by homework, often to the detriment of their overall development and well-being," Adam notes. "It's not uncommon for children at prestigious schools to face up to five hours of homework daily, a burden that weighs heavy alongside their school work and extracurricular activities."
This overabundance of homework not only stifles children's opportunities for socialisation but, as countless studies show, it can also be an ineffective teaching method*. "We tend to overload children with excessive homework, blurring the line between enriching learning and mere obligation," says Adam. "The concept of homework needs a dramatic overhaul."
Adam argues that homework should be minimised with the notable exception of skills requiring repetition, like music. "Most adults work around 40 hours a week," he points out, "and yet we burden our children with a workload that far exceeds this. We recognise the risk of burnout in adults, so why are we not doing the same regarding our children?”
The recognition of burnout by the WHO has sparked a significant discourse regarding workplace stress and mental health in the corporate world. Employers and employees alike are now more aware of the implications of chronic stress, and numerous strategies have been implemented to prevent and manage burnout in adults.
However, despite these progressive steps, a comparable dialogue surrounding burnout in children — particularly in relation to educational stress — is noticeably absent. Adam Caller finds this discrepancy alarming. "When the WHO recognised burnout, it initiated critical conversations and prompted significant changes in the corporate world. It's high time we extended this discourse to our children's education. Recognising and addressing the overburden of homework is a start. We can't continue to ignore the signs of burnout in children and expect them to thrive," Adam emphasises. There's much work to be done to ensure our children's education nurtures their growth without compromising their well-being.
Alarmingly, much of the homework children are faced with is what Adam terms 'busy work'. "It's often not cognitively engaging and certainly not designed to inspire children on autodidactic ventures of personal curiosity," Adam shares. "True education is not about mere information retention. It's about fostering a lifelong love of learning."
In Adam's view, schools around the globe have lost their way in relation to homework. In its current form, homework often detracts more than it contributes, leading to overstressed children and frustrated parents. But it doesn't have to be this way.
"Homework can be a powerful tool," Adam believes, "but it should be used judiciously and with a clear purpose." He outlines three key cases where homework can add value: spaces where repetition is beneficial, as a means of benchmarking teacher efficacy, and where it is cognitively adding to the child’s understanding.
"By focusing on these three areas," Adam suggests, "we can make homework meaningful again. It's not about doing more but about doing better. And that's a lesson we can all learn from."
At Tutors International, we echo Adam's sentiments and encourage educators and parents to critically examine the role of homework in our children's lives. It's time to shift the focus from quantity to quality, from rote tasks to inspiring quests for knowledge. Only then can we truly unlock the potential in every child.
"The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning" by Etta Kralovec and John Buell (2000). This book is one of the most cited sources in the debate about the effectiveness of homework. The authors argue that homework has a negative effect on families and does not significantly improve learning.
"Reforming Homework: Practices, Learning and Policies" by Richard Walker and Mike Horsley (2013). This study reviews the current state of homework policies across the globe and suggests that the correlation between homework and academic achievement is weak, especially in primary school.
"The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing" by Alfie Kohn (2006). Kohn's book is frequently cited in discussions on homework. He argues that the positive effects of homework are mythical, and instead, it can lead to frustration, exhaustion, and a dislike for learning.
"Does Homework Improve Academic Achievement? A Synthesis of Research" by Harris Cooper, Jorgianne Civey Robinson, and Erika A. Patall (2006). Published in "Review of Educational Research", this paper synthesises multiple studies and concludes that there is only a correlation (not causation) between homework and achievement at the secondary school level. The benefits at the primary level are unclear.
"Homework in America's Schools: A Closer Look" by Tom Loveless (2003). Loveless' research, published by Brookings Institution, examines the increasing amount of homework in US schools and its lack of clear benefits.