Deputy mayor: no more homework

February 8th, 2012

This article is more than 12 years old.

Proposal to do away with homework at Copenhagen schools comes before council

CopenhagenÂ’s deputy mayor for children and youth, Anne Vang (Socialdemokraterne), is proposing to ban homework at selected city schools.

“We should do away with the concept of homework and instead turn it into something you do when you are in school,” she told MetroXpress newspaper.

On Wednesday, Vang is to present her proposal to the cityÂ’s committee for child and youth affairs. If the recommendation is taken up, homework will be history for students in the fourth, fifth and seventh grades at select Copenhagen schools for a period of three years.

The concept of homework-free schools has taken off in Denmark in recent years, due in part to the surprisingly positive results from a few pilot programmes.

A couple of high schools that went the no-homework route have seen their drop-out and truancy rates fall, while their grade point averages and graduation numbers have risen.

At Tønder Gymnasium in southern Jutland, where third-year high school students have not had homework since they started at the school, the graduation rate has risen from 70 to 85 percent. The national average is 75 percent. At the same time, grade point averages have risen by 1.1 points on the 7-point grading scale, reports Politiken newspaper.

The vocational Cph West school in Ishøj introduced homework-free months and saw a 15 percent fall in the first-year drop-out rate and a ten percent reduction in the truancy rate.

“Of course, this initiative is about retention. But it’s just as much about learning. It gives the teachers a better basis for evaluating the students’ academic levels, because they can see how the students choose to solve problems that they would otherwise be sitting home alone with,” Knud-Erik Krøjer Hansen, Cph West’s vice principal, told Politiken.

Based on the pilot programmesÂ’ results, Vang wants to introduce the homework-free school concept to Copenhagen. Instead of take-home assignments, students would be required to do more assignments during extended class-time hours, where an attending teacher can oversee their progress and answer their questions.

The proposal comes shortly after the city trimmed the schools’ offerings for homework tutoring at after-hours ‘homework cafés’. Vang noted that the students with the most acute need for homework help rarely took advantage of the tutoring provision.

“We therefore want to try and make it a part of the normal school day instead,” Vang said.
But the proposal could meet with tough resistance.

Rasmus Jarlov (Konservative), who co-chairs the City CouncilÂ’s children and youth affairs committee, was skeptical about VangÂ’s plan.

“I think there should be tutoring for students whose parents are incapable of helping them, but I absolutely don’t think that we should eradicate the very concept of homework, even if it would be easier for the teachers,” he said.

Peter Allerup, a professor of education at Aarhus University, supports the no-homework initiative, but warned against making things too simple for students.

“We mustn’t release students from the responsibility of figuring things out for themselves. It doesn’t make any sense if teachers just end up finishing students’ assignments for them,” he added.

Allerup added that the no-homework teaching concept would tend to benefit the weakest students most – an observation seconded by Hansen, who has the experience at Cph West to judge by.

“There are some students who are a little let down, because they feel they aren’t being challenged enough – especially the really talented ones,” Hansen said.

However, Hansen and Tønder Gymnasium headteacher Jens Gade are generally enthusiastic about the advantages of going homework-free.

“It is solid, documented and very positive,” said Gade, who is planning to extend the programme to other classes at his school.

“We’re a little hesitant,” he added. “It’s a huge project, because the curriculum has to be totally rethought, and that’s not something you just do from one day to the next.”


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