That nasty homework

By: Modesto P. Sa-onoy

WELL, finally somebody is taking to task the present Philippine educational system for loading the students with homework that denies them time for play and family life. No wonder many young people today are drifting away from the family core into the world outside.

How much of the several homework that kids bring home really contribute to their learning? I have not read or heard that the assignments to be done at home make the kids better than their forebears.

The subjects that students, from the lower grades up to college, are burdened with are staggering. All it takes is a brief glimpse of the kids dragging their books, notebooks and workbooks when they go to school. The books are getting thicker with larger fonts and more expensive than the tuition. Worse, as the news tells us, millions of pesos worth of textbooks that the Department of Education purchased have errors in grammar and facts. And yet those people who have either authored those books or who had examined those textbooks have a long list of academic degrees.

The private schools are no better than government schools, not only for the high cost of tuition and numerous other fees and contributions for this and that but also for the number of books they prescribe. Many of these books have too many useless pages but the students (the parents actually) pay for them. The school year is not enough for the students to finish studying them.

The homework, both academic and projects, occupy a lot of time for the kids after school. When they arrive at home, they have to “go back to school” as it were, because they are once again buried in the notebooks and books, or busy with the computers doing their research on the internet. What of the family without computer facilities? The kids have to go out to Internet Cafes that charge by the hour.

There is nothing new about the educational system that gives the kids more time to play. As early as 1659, the people then knew the value of play when they coined the proverb, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. This simply means that without time off from work, a person becomes both bored and boring. The exact origin of the phrase is unknown, but it was already a wit as early as the middle of the 17th century when public education expanded from the church rectory to the countryside and finally making it universal.

I recall we had no homework until we reached high school and we had plenty of time for play. We had one notebook, a pencil and examination pads. We went home early to help in the family chores, from cutting firewood to cleaning the yard or tending the vegetable garden and then games under the moonlight.

Of course, life and its tempo had gone ballistics and so the sociological and psychological disposition of people. The pressure on the students, not just from their peers and the family, are reinforced by the heavy load that schools impose on their wards.

The proposal in Congress to do away with homework, either academic or project-related tasks, is a step towards unleashing the energy of the young into other activities to provide them with an education to be human and skills to prepare or improve their chances in life.

Our educational system has reduced considerably the humanities and focused on the sciences. Thus, we produce excellent professionals without complete view of life that the humanities provide, like art, philosophy, morals, languages and literature.

The homework need not be totally removed because they do perform certain functions, like developing a study habit, as reading and mental discipline. But they should not replace the teachers who unburden their task into the laps of the parents. It can even be a funny situation – students are given homework based on the internet and parents are not even adept in handling their cellphones or are aware of new terminologies that the dictionaries had not heard about, much less print them.

The internet, of course has replaced the dictionary, the thesaurus and the encyclopedia where words, meanings and origins can be had with the use of a mouse (not the rodents) and asking Google (not the glasses used under water). Students and new adults thus suffer from log amnesia.