Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Homework: A Problem At KIS

by Gregory Kulchyckyj

On the first of October, high school students in Kyiv International School were asked to respond to a survey created by KIS Today staffer Radia Miqdadi concerning homework in the 2013-2014 school year. By the end of the week, 81 students had responded to ten questions, including “How many hours a day to you spend doing homework” and “How much time are you given to do homework in class?”

Homework has been a continuous hot topic in KIS. Most students, especially in high school, have reported the problem of too much homework. This includes: reading, worksheets, essays, projects, and studying for examinations.

Of those who responded, over 90% felt that their homework load has been way-more-than-appropriate. Such statistics aren’t surprising, since 80% of the respondents describe doing homework 4-5 hours every weekday. To put this in perspective, one school day is seven hours long.  This creates a challenge when students have yet to participate in after-school activities, eat dinner and receive a good amount of sleep.

Such a large amount of homework – up to 25 hours a week – can be counterproductive. A BBC study recommends that high school should get no more than two hours of schoolwork. Otherwise, schools risk losing a child’s interest in learning. Also, studies show that students with a vast amount of homework are more prone to cheating. Furthermore, there has been no proof that homework actually benefits students. To this extent, the homework load can be seen as unnecessary and even harmful to the KIS student body.

While teachers may argue that all this homework is meant to help prepare students for tests, according to the KIS Today survey results, only 4% of students believe 100% of homework is directly beneficial, while 65% feel only half their homework is useful, and the other half meant to keep them busy.  

While KIS administration argues that students are given time to start on homework in class, one question put into the survey was “How much time are you given to start/do your homework in school?” The results were the most one-sided of the whole questionnaire, with 69% of students answering that they get almost no time to do homework in class. This is completely contradictory to the administration’s statement, and brings the cold hard fact that the KIS administration must change their homework policy.

QSI’s Homework Policy, posted in the most recent Kozak’s Korner, states: “If students feel overburdened with homework assignments, a "staffing" with teachers and administration maybe used to determine homework guidelines for the school or individual student.” The results make it clear that students are already overburdened in just the first month of school. There is a lot of pressure put on students to get outstanding mastery grades when we aren’t even given time to study for exams, and can barely get seven hours of sleep.

The Policy also says: “Homework should not repeatedly exclude students from joining family activities or other forms of childhood socialization.” The survey results raise questions about how much time a student is able to spend on family and social life when school takes up 12 hours of an average day. Such a feat would certainly be challenging. And weekends don’t offer too much free time either.

One-third of students who took the homework survey say that they spend 10 or more hours of homework during the weekend. Professors from Ivy League schools such as the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton say that homework is not the answer to better educational results. Homework should be merely used to practice and review what has already been taught. One of my IB teachers said, “I’ll admit, I didn’t even get this much homework in college!”

Overall, the survey can speak for itself. High school students spend about a whole day on schooling, while trying to balance out other aspects of life. Homework in KIS is seen as a challenge in itself, disregarding the QSI, AP, and IB courses. It is clear that respondents from the survey hope for more appropriate guidelines concerning homework throughout the rest of their academic career in Kyiv International School.