by Jon Joaquin
Homework has always been my weak point. In elementary and high school it was normal for me to do homework when I got to school in the morning, having been too busy the previous day with friends, hobbies, and other youthful stuff to bother with assignments. I always managed, and in fact it was something of a philosophy for me: unless the homework required massive work, I knew there was always time in the morning to do them. I wasn’t going to let something like homework take away the fun of being a child.
There are currently two bills filed before the Philippine House of Representatives proposing a no-homework policy for schools. Deputy Speaker Evelina Escudero’s bill seeks to eliminate homework and limit school activities to the campus while Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas’ version wants to stop teachers from assigning homework during the weekends. I’m surprised that the proposals have been met with criticism and anger from the people, but perhaps this is because most of the news has focused on the P50,000 penalty and two-year prison time for violators. That does appear to be much, but I think the undue focus on this part takes away the attention from the benefits of not giving homework to students.
First of all, a student already spends a disproportionate amount of time in school. In the Philippines, classes start around 8 in the morning and end at around 4 in the afternoon. That’s eight hours of almost non-stop instruction and (hopefully) learning. This doesn’t count the time needed to get ready for school in the morning and the hours spent on the road. By the time a student gets home, he or she can be dead tired. But wait! They have to do homework, and this can take a few more hours. At the end of the day, a child has done nothing but school work even at home, leaving him or her with little or no time to spend on equally important things like family, friends, sports, hobbies, and the like.
Second, and let’s face it, many students get help from their parents or older siblings when it comes to homework. Education Secretary Leonor Briones says she believes this is happening: “Alam naman natin na minsan ang homework, hindi naman ang bata ang gumagawa pagdating sa bahay.” [“We know that sometimes it’s not the children who do the homework when they get home.”] It’s just one way of teaching children how to get away with shortcuts and even downright cheating.
These were what we experienced when our daughter was in school. For her, it meant waking up at six in the morning so she can catch the school bus at 7:00 a.m.. When she got home at around five in the afternoon, she would have to bury herself in homework before dinner, and often she would have to do more work after eating. By the time she got to bed we would have spent little quality time with her, and she often missed out on other activities that were also enriching (like shows, exhibits, hobbies, family time, and more), simply because there was no time.
I think the proposal to ban homework acknowledges the fact that learning is not solely based on a school’s curriculum. A child – or adult, for that matter – learns from all sorts of things and experiences, and doing away with homework frees children to soak in everything they can from various sources. This was one of the main reasons my wife and I finally decided to homeschool our daughter. We realized she could learn from us everything a regular school teaches – and so much more. Literally anything can be turned into a lesson, and she learns that education happens all the time, not just in school or when doing homework. More important, learning becomes fun.
But since not every child is going to be homeschooled, I think the next best thing is to take homework away from them. This, however, has to be paired with encouraging parents to make sure the free time they have is used productively. It doesn’t have to take the form of lessons. Even having a relaxed dinner together can go a long way in teaching young minds about life.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the original author, and do not necessarily represent those of the Pilipino Express publishers.
Jon Joaquin is the Editor-In- Chief of the Davao City-based Mindanao Daily Mirror. E-mail Jon at email@example.com.