A German child sits at a table at home doing maths homework on May 4th, 2020 in Muelheim an der Ruhr / Germany. � | DPA/PA Images

'Why I believe homework should be banned', by one primary school student

Misha McEnaney is a fifth class student. He outlines why he believes homework should be banned for all children.

As the discussion around state exams through the Covid-19 shutdown continues, a separate debate about the very need for homework itself rumbles on. Over the years, many have argued that homework for students in busy modern-day family structures is no longer workable.

This year, the Green Party sought to open a discussion about the banning of homework in future. Here, primary school pupil Misha McEnaney, a fifth class student from Dublin, outlines why he believes homework is more of a hindrance than a help.

IRISH CHILDREN SPEND around 274.5 hours on homework in a year. Is it a waste of time? Generally speaking, homework does not improve academic performance among children, although it may improve academic skills among older students especially lower-achieving kids. Homework also creates stress among students who could be doing other things.

I think it is a waste of time. Here’s why I think so. 

Many students think homework is extremely boring and hard so it increases our stress levels. You might fight with your family or friends and that gives the impression you are angry and irritated when often it’s just because your homework is increasing your stress.

Also, a study by scholar Denise Pope at Stanford shows that out of 4,300 students at high-performance schools, 60% stated that their homework was their primary source of stress.

Movement is more important

I believe that homework eliminates time when you could be exercising, playing sports, carrying out hobbies, reading etc. So when your friends are playing outside or something exciting or important is happening you can’t go out because you’re stuck inside doing your homework. 

Homework messes up your sleep cycles and it causes you to be more tired. After school when you’re tired from working you still have to do your homework, so you don’t deliver your full concentration and that makes your performance not as acceptable as it should be. This can cause your grade to go down and so that defeats the whole point of education to become better and smarter. 

A study from shows that students perform best in school when they receive 10–12 hours of sleep each night, while only 15% of teenagers in America reported themselves sleeping eight hours or more on school nights, according to the national sleep foundation of America. Sleep disruption is very bad for our health.

Teacher trust

If you’re completely booked up for the day doing sports or other activities you have no time to do your homework. Your teachers start to trust you less and less and this develops a bad view of you when it’s not entirely your fault. 

It’s also repetitive so you’re doing the same work at school and there’s no effectiveness, it’s not going in. So all that homework becomes a waste because you have already completed it at school. You can also easily get distracted.

Homework takes away revision time for tests and that can affect the test scores. That develops a bad reputation for the student and for the school. The parents then assume that the teaching at the school is bad and they might move school. So the kid might lose friends and over time the school becomes less liked and popular.

All because there is too much homework. 

Bad for the mood

If you don’t sleep enough it can cause mood swings which can affect students’ performance and relationships. To think we can stop all of this by just banning homework makes me wonder why schools still give out homework at all.

People who believe that homework should not be banned have reasonable points and arguments. They believe that doing homework at home can be better for the students and they would receive higher results. 

They also think the parents of the students will have an idea of what type of work they are doing in the classroom, at what scale the student is doing their work and how the student is doing that work. There is absolutely no reason why parents shouldn’t know what the student’s work is like. 

Some people believe that homework boosts interaction between a student and his or her teacher. Homework might develop their presentation skills. They believe that homework is “a remedy against weaknesses”. These can all be done at school. They believe it teaches the students responsibility because they have to make sure that they do their work and not lose it or destroy it. 

They think the students learn much more new information as well as in school. So people think it teaches the students important life skills. They also think it keeps the students busy and entertained. I would argue that these should all be the responsibility of parents, not school.

A shift in the debate

The Green Party in Ireland has promised to explore the banning of homework for primary school children. They also vow to review primary and secondary schools curriculum “to meet the needs of the 21st century”. Catherine Martin, deputy leader of the Green Party, said that “the phasing out of homework is something that definitely should be explored”. 

“This isn’t new, this has been on our policy for the past several years. And I think we really need to have a conversation on how best to develop the creative juices of our children, or really change how we do homework, homework could be, ‘go home and draw a picture of something that means a lot to you’,” she said.

“They’re so young, especially up to the age of seven or eight, it’s a conversation that we need to have”. 

She used the example of Loreto Primary School in Rathfarnham, Dublin, which is currently trialling a “no-homework” programme for all classes except sixth. Ms Martin said that they had found the pilot scheme “amazing” and children were spending a lot more time with their families as a result. 

Mental health considerations

Psychotherapist Mary McHugh believes that we are reducing children’s natural “curious, imaginative and creative” tendencies by “pressuring them to conform”. 

“Our children from the age of three, are being trained to sit still and from five upwards, it’s expected that this is the norm.” McHugh also says that “stress is showing up at an alarming scale and we’re still applying more pressure academically younger and younger”. 

Let’s look at Finland. In Finland, there is no homework in all schools. Finland agrees that there should be no homework because it increases stress, it wastes time etc. Finnish students regularly top the charts on global education metric systems.

Some 93% of Finnish students graduate from secondary school compared to 75% in the USA and 78% in Canada. About two in every three students in Finland go to college which is the highest rate in Europe. The students’ test scores dominate everyone else.  These are the scores for the PISA test (Program for International Student Assessment) 2006.  There are other reasons why Finland’s education system is so good but no homework is definitely an important one. 

Homework increases stress levels among students. It replaces time for hobbies and sports. It messes up your sleep. It can’t always be done and that causes trouble. It’s repetitive. You can develop health problems from lack of sleep.

It takes away time for studying and also when you don’t get enough sleep you can get mood swings and that can affect performance and relationships. There are reasonable arguments for why people who believe that homework shouldn’t be banned are wrong.

We have seen that the Green Party also thinks that homework should be banned and that some schools have already trialled it. We have looked at Finland banning homework and we have seen the impact it has made compared to other countries. This is why I think homework should be banned, not just in my school but in all schools. 

Misha McEnaney is a fifth class student at St Mary’s College, Rathmines, Dublin.

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