Editorial | Don’t let homework get in the way of kids’ learning
Proposals to drop homework would be easy to dismiss as just some throwback to the educational policies of the 1970s that emphasised independent thought at the expense of discipline and structure, if it weren’t for one thing: proof. The no-homework programmes currently gaining popularity among educators are backed by studies apparently showing improved retention and learning – two things that should be music to the ears of any adult.
If those findings hold – and if they increase students’ chances of success after finishing school – then this is an idea that should become as much a part of the school day as the lunch break and PE.
It is a worry that the brightest students report not being challenged enough. This should be taken seriously, but it’s not a new complaint in the Danish system, which prizes classroom cohesion and equality of outcome over academic results.
We know that this won’t sit well with Denmark’s equality-minded educators, but the answer for these bored students is obviously to set up two-track teaching. That goes against the consensus mentality, but allowing everyone to excel at their own level is not the same as leaving some students behind.
As a country reputed – or derided by those subscribing to the disciplinarian school of educational theories – for its progressive approach to teaching, it would seem obvious that Danish educators have latched on to the no-homework movement.
What’s most interesting about its growing popularity here is that it comes on the heels of a debate last year about the state of the educational system that saw high school administrators all but surrender to the teaching philosophies of Asian school systems.
What few noticed amid the apocalyptic predictions was that Asian educators were at the same time looking towards the Danish educational system, with its emphasis on understanding, critical thinking and not least socialisation, as a remedy for their rigid systems that rely heavily on memorisation and individual discipline.
It would seem that after the soul searching caused by those discussions, Danish educators have concluded that there’s more ways to teach a child than by being a Tiger mom.
There are lots of things to bemoan about Danish schools (students and teachers being on a first name basis for one) but when it comes to eliminating homework, there appear to be no excuses for not doing so.