Should America Follow Quebec’s Lead And Ban Homework From Elementary Schools?

The Toronto Star reports that the Quebec-based Collège de Saint-Ambroise has launched a one-year pilot project in which homework for grade one through six has effectively been banned, though only to an extent. A spokeswoman for the Jonquiere School Board explained that teachers will still be permitted to assign students basic reading and studying “assignments.” However, the homework ban prevents teachers from handing out time-consuming assignments such as “four pages of math problems.”

The school chose to ban homework based on two premises – that homework is becoming too difficult, and that students perform better without all the extra work. But are these premises accurate, and if so, why does America not follow suit and ban homework from its own elementary schools?

Some of the evidence definitely lends credence to the belief that homework causes more consternation than it does benefit. In fact, according to the Washington Post, the arguments against homework began way back in the 1930s, when the American Child Health Association claimed that homework is was of the “leading killers of children who contracted tuberculosis and heart disease.”

Now fast forward to 2008, when the Prince of Wales Public School in Barrie, Ontario, instituted a ban on most types of homework. One year later, it was discovered that grades had risen by an average of three percent. Furthermore, CNN contributor Dr. Etta Kralovec, who is Associate Professor of Teacher Education and Director of Graduate Teacher Education at UA South, notes that though schools in Finland assign small quantities of homework, their “students have some of the highest test scores in the world.”

News Corp Australia website Kidspot.com.au contributor Dr. Justin Coulson cites a 2002 study that “found a direct relationship between time spent on homework and levels of anxiety, depression, anger and other mood disorders and issues.” He also adds that no evidence exists “to support the belief that homework helps students develop” beneficial capabilities and skills like being able to manage their time and being able to think independently.

Given that all this evidence props up the idea of placing a ban on homework (at least in elementary school), why then do elementary schools in America keep handing out more and more homework? Cue Today’s Parent contributor Natalie Alcoba, who points out how a study conducted in 2007 had found that “83 percent of teachers, 81 percent of parents and 77 percent of students [consider] homework an important part of learning.”

Clearly, homework is simply an accepted part of American culture. But should it stay that way, or should America follow Quebec’s lead and ban homework from elementary schools?

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