By Nithya Sundaram
The recent directive from High Court in Chennai that classes one and 2 should not get any homework has triggered a debate on the value of homework for young children. There are fundamentally two perspectives to it; the learners and parents. The school perspective should ideally be the learners’ perspective.
Learners need consolidation of concepts. They need practice and any educationist or psychologist will tell us that repetition is important for proper learning. If schools can manage it within their time, it’s well and good. If not, calling for parental cooperation is natural. However, it should be clear that they are expected only to supervise if work is getting done and not to ensure that it is done correctly and perfectly. Teachers will then get a picture of where students are lagging behind. It should be rather used as an opportunity to gauge the students’ independent performance. That is the key to understand learning.
If the assignment is innovative and involves learners to go speak to people and gather information, then we have willing participants in the form of learners. Very rarely, such tasks misfire. However, parental cooperation is vital here and they must be prepared to take interest in accompanying the learner and watching him complete the work. The delicate balance between simply watching him making mistakes and the temptation to take charge and correct them is tough, but it helps to show restraint. It can be as difficult for that parent who cannot help and feels helpless as their child plods through the task. Their ignorance in itself can be a blessing in disguise since such a learner will have an opportunity to find his way on his own.
That mother, who feels she wants to be rid of the headache of homework, takes a different stand and must be rejoicing at the court order. But, this ruling from the High Court is directed towards getting the learner to engage in activities that will build her personality and her skill sets, which can be social, interpersonal or even communication. These vital life skill sets cannot be developed without parental intervention in purposeful activities. When a school provides activities, it is precisely that purpose which is fulfilled.
The ideal solution will be for schools, which are the `more knowledgeable’ of the two to provide activities that will fill the void which sets in when learners are bereft of home assignments and when they suddenly find that a big chunk of time is hanging on their hand.