Why homework stands up in house schooling

The German-speaking study plan does not contain any obligation to assign homework. Keystone / Melanie Duchene

The term homework has taken on a new meaning with the closure of Swiss schools required by the coronavirus epidemic. However, when forced distance learning ends, some Swiss schools will certainly reopen the debate on the importance of homework.

This content was published on March 23, 2020 – 11:12 AM

It was just before the health crisis took its toll. The newest of the Swiss educational institutions, a primary school in the east of the country, has decided to experiment with the end of homework. At Feldli-Schoren College near St. Pupils between the ages of eight and twelve took part in this one-year pilot project in St. Gallen.

“Our main goal is equal opportunities. There is a gap between educationally disadvantaged families and others. Homework is a source of stress for students who do not know how to ask their parents for help or advice, “said the school principal. Ralf Schäpper spoke in the columns of St. Galler TagblattExternal link following the announcement that this program, originally scheduled for six months, will be extended.

A choice that should benefit everyone. “When students leave school after seven lessons, they should not have to sit in front of their desks at home again,” said Ralf Schäpper.

Instead, the school introduced four weekly supervised teaching periods – each from twenty to thirty minutes. According to Ralf Schäpper, the initial feedback from students, teachers and parents is “rather positive – although he admits that some parents prefer a preference for the old system, which allowed them to monitor the work of their descendants.

The Feldli-Schoren school is not unique. His counterpart from KriensExternal link near Lucerne and several others in the Bern region have also drawn a rough line for homework in recent years.

Controversial topic

The topic is still very controversial.External link. Early Childhood Professor at the University for Teacher Education in St. Petersburg St. Gallen, Bernhard HauserExternal link give reasons.

“Many children and parents quite like to avoid homework and the resulting tension,” he told swissinfo.ch. However, international research suggests that homework contributes to ensuring school efficiency and high learning benefits. ”

“There are, of course, parents who complain about the lack of homework,” the researcher notes. This topic does not force everyone to agree even at home. ”Homeworkers believe this is important for their children’s learning outcomes and future careers.

Whose decision?

In Switzerland, education is the responsibility of the cantons. However, many decisions are made at the local school level. In principle, homework is not mandatoryExternal link. In German – speaking Switzerland, Lehrplan 21 (curriculumExternal link), for example, only sets out the conditions under which they cannot be distributed. During public holidays, e.g. No precision on the other hand about the need or failure to provide the rest of the time.

There are guidelines for task duration. Canton of St. Gallen opted for about half an hour a week for the youngest elementary school students and two hours or more for children aged 11-12. And even more so at the lower secondary level (under 15), suggests Bernhard Hauser.

Lost learning

Specialist from St. Gallen declares itself to be a homework assurance and assures that it will contribute to the deepening of knowledge. “In the absence of homework throughout the school course, you will end up with the equivalent of 700 hours of lost learning.”

Not to mention that homework helps children develop self-regulation. They learn to limit themselves to a task that they would not choose right away. Better homework than football … This is an important life lesson, Judge Bernhard Hauser.

The researcher states that the abolition of homework remains unusual in Switzerland. In the absence of official statistics, he estimates that the fight against domestic tasks is reborn every ten or twenty years, but in reality few schools go so far as to implement this approach. The canton of Schwyz had a good experience with this in 1993 and then returned four years later under parental pressure.

Bernhard Hauser does not currently see any momentum in getting rid of homework, as long as several individual experiences are in focus. Various experiences …

“Some schools completely cancel homework, others keep it, bringing them back to school. This limits the negative effects. On the other hand, it is at the expense of students who are able to work independently, as they are then supervised at school, ”notes Bernhard Hauser.

Across the language limit

The French-speaking part of the country has its own curriculum. This is claimed by Samuel Rohrbach, chairman of the Teachers’ UnionExternal link Romands, the issue of homework is often relevant in the region.

“Several cantons, such as Neuchâtel and Jura, have issued guidelines that specify, in particular, the maximum time that must be devoted to homework on a daily basis. The will is that students do not have to take on too much, “said this deputy coach by e-mail.

His association points to the issue of inequality, but also the need to learn autonomy through homework. It offers supervised lessons within schools to ensure the benefits of support for all students. Samuel Rohrbach specifies that the content of these sessions must be strictly limited to monitoring what has been done in class.

Parent support?

Bernhard Hauser also worked on how to strengthen equal opportunities. It supports daily homework meetings offered at school – a reality in some schools, but only a few days a week. He also suggests that parents with disabilities receive help through courses on how best to support their children.

This approach would allow students who can afford to do homework and gain the necessary support from others.

Feldli-Schoren, meanwhile, plans to evaluate its project before the summer holidays, according to its principal. At this stage, therefore, no decision was made as to whether to reintroduce homework for the next school year.

International comparison

Official reports of homework habits are relatively rare. To OECDExternal link released in 2014, it offers a vision of the reality of fifteen-year-old students. From a 2012 PISA study, the organization notes that the latter spent almost five hours a week on homework.

In this survey, Switzerland ranks 11th (out of 38) with approximately four hours of homework per week. Students in Finland and Korea lead the rankings with less than three hours, while in Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Romania, Russia and Singapore this number exceeds seven hours.

The same report states that the most disadvantaged students spend more time at the homework table than their disadvantaged peers – in all countries covered by the PISA survey.

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