Our generation seems to be known for the high-pressure college admissions, hours upon hours of homework, our drive to succeed through competition, etc. But in all honesty, is it truly necessary?
The correlation between homework and how much students actually learn is often debated. A CNN article says there is simply no correlation between homework and academic achievement in elementary school, and homework should be limited in middle and high school to increase effectiveness.
Not all countries place the same emphasis on homework as America. According to the Washington Post, Finland scored above the United States in a test based on reading, math, and science. Finland schools give little homework to students and rather focus on creativity. I spoke with two Norwegian exchange students from my school who noted that American schools teach subjects (especially foreign languages) quite differently. They also noted that in Norway, they have much more free time; in America, students typically only hang out on weekends, but in Norway, kids hang out on school nights because they have more free time. Norway isn’t ranked as high as Finland even though they are geographically close, but it still points to the fact that America is obsessed with homework.
Schools in Finland do not administer standardized tests, and teachers create their own report cards and grading scales. In Finland, there are no private schools or “top” schools (even for college).
“There are no lists of best schools or teachers in Finland. The main driver of education policy is not competition between teachers and between schools, but cooperation,” says Anu Partanen in an article published by The Atlantic. Perhaps America is doing something majorly wrong.
Time spent on homework does correlate to scores on standardized tests but does not correlate to final grades received in math and science classes, according to a recent study titled “When Is Homework Worth the Time?: Evaluating the Association Between Homework and Achievement in High School Science and Math.”
However, this study doesn’t necessarily prove that the homework itself is the cause of an increase in test scores. Often the students who don’t really need to be doing the homework are the ones who do it; students who spend significant amounts of time on homework may be the ones who take standardized tests more seriously—which could be the only correlation.
Basically, the only correlation could be that those students in high pressure environments (placing a large emphasis on homework) have the same pressure to succeed for standardized tests.
So it’s merely one big loop of stress in America. Studies upon studies try to claim different statistics about the American education system, but when it comes down to it, there’s too large of an emphasis on homework (of course some schools are exceptions). Homework can even lead to negative side effects: lack of creativity, worsened memory as a result of heightened stress, lack of balance, and health issues (such as migraines, ulcers, or sleep deprivation).
The solution, however, is hard to establish. Could it be flipped classrooms, a model in which students would learn a lesson for homework by watching a video online, and class time would be spent doing practice work and assisting the students with filling in the gaps? This would eliminate some issues of cheating on homework, and it would also eliminate the times when students sit at home unable to figure out their homework. But the drawbacks could outweigh the benefits. Could it be different scheduling, perhaps an efficient form of block scheduling? Could it be online school?
Or could it merely be the need for a change of mindset?
It is possible that schools in America have lost the focus of the true value of homework—extending learning beyond the classroom. Perhaps the complaints of homework are not the students’ fault for wasting time texting and tweeting, not the teachers’ fault for assigning too much homework, but rather the fault of the general mindset of American schooling system for placing too large of an emphasis on rote memorization.
Perhaps the education system lacks time for students to explore the world creatively—and perhaps we are already too boxed up by the schooling system of homework and memorization to realize what changes need to be made.