Homework. Who enjoys homework really? (Yes, I don’t really fancy it myself despite all the jokes that are cracked about me going home and opening up a huge textbook and reading it)
Well, since we can pretty much rule out that homework is for one’s pleasure, unless you’re that interesting individual who loves doing homework more than anything else, what is the purpose of homework?
The purposes, I believe, are as followed:
1) To help consolidate what we have learnt through continuous practice, e.g. math
2) To expose us to potential examination questions and help develop our skills of answering them – after all our exams results are a major factor on which we are judged
3) To prepare for the next lesson by reading, researching or other methods
4) To evaluate our progress in the subject as judged by the quality of our submitted work
Of course, I would have to include some of the other not so positive theories:
1) Sadistic teachers seek to drown us with stacks of sheets that they laughingly know we can’t finish
2) Revenge after being put through similar toil by their previous teachers
3) Conspiracy to make us mindless zombies through the repetitiveness of homework
Ok..The last one was pushing it. But really do suggest some more outlandish theories if you have them.
But anyways going back to the subject, we’ve more or less established the purpose of why homework is given, but that is pretty irrelevant isn’t it? I mean, who cares why there’s homework – what matters more is “Is there too much of it? And what can we do to reduce it?”, noting the implicit assumption in the second question that there is already too much homework.
So is there really too much homework? I’ve always wondered about this. And I think the answer can be found in the question: Is there really too much homework – too much compared to what? Therefore we need to look at our utilisation of our most precious resource, time. The argument here is that too much of our time is taken up doing homework. Let’s examine what truth there is behind that statement.
To begin, let’s see what else we do with our time, and by this I mean actual distractions like TV or the computer or going out all the time. Is it the case that there is too much homework, or too many enjoyable distractions? I’m not sure about this, but it seems that I have a habit of talking online while doing my homework. I once read somewhere that teenagers today may not be learning and benefiting as much from homework due to the fact that their brains are in a million places at once, and equally they are becoming less productive and are thus spending more time finishing a task.
Ahhhh…I think there is some semblance of truth to that statement, because I can be guilty of that at times. But I don’t think it’s all our fault. Some teachers unreasonably expect us to have all the time in the world just for their work, and they expect us to spend our whole day doing work and not enjoying ourselves, an opinion which I also feel is quite true.
Or is it? There are many conjectures a person can come up with when talking about the workload but I think some empirical evidence, some solid evidence has to be brought into the picture. So I thought, what better way to do this than to see the amount of time it would take me to complete a task, and the amount of time I would spend dallying before starting on that task.
I loved my results. On average, for every hour of solid work I do, I have 1 hour of unfruitful time. And people still ask where all the time goes.
So in answer to the question of whether there is too much homework, I am dubious to concede ground, because if the answer is no, then that means I’ve been procrastinating quite badly when I could have finished my work efficiently. But the answer may seem to lean towards yes, because talks with adults have revealed that the workload has not changed much.
Instead distractions have increased many-fold. And none more powerful than that of the internet, or that nifty device called a handphone come to think of it.
Thus the question is more this: There is too much homework – because too much of our time is simply being taken up by other ‘activities’. Therefore, what can we do to minimise those distractions?
Well, I think the key word here is really discipline. I think focus is needed. And I think it’s a habit that has to be cultivated. If we repeat this methodology of finishing our homework first and not allowing distractions to hinder productivity, it will become ingrained in us and we become more efficient. Simple economics – specialisation can lead to increased productivity, thus creating a more efficient outcome.
Of course, discipline is never easy, so in the first few months, we might have to resort to pulling out that internet wire, or turning off that beeping handphone. But I think the returns might be more spectacular than you can imagine.
However, before I end, I would like to add a disclaimer. Although I have pointed out that the reason why we seem to have too much homework is that a lot of our time is being taken up for other activities, most of which might be distractions that are unnecessary, there are situations where these activities may be necessary. However, if the problem, of not being able to catch up on your work, while the rest of the class seems to be doing fine, does persist in the long run, then it may be wise to reassess your priorities and free up your schedule slightly. Because I think that in most cases, in the long run, your workload balances and if you put in full effort, no task cannot be complete. In the short run, extended deadlines might be necessary but don’t push your luck (although doing really well at the start of the year does earn you some leeway later in the year, all from personal experience)