Parents in Australia Call for Ban on Homework

Homework should be scrapped in the early years of primary school and its place in high schools reviewed amid concerns it is a practice without any academic benefits.

The national umbrella organization of parents and citizens groups, the Australian Council of State School Organizations, has called for a review of the setting of homework, arguing there is no evidence that students benefit from the practice and that it has become an overbearing invasion of family life.

"In primary schools, certainly we have grave doubts about the need for homework in most years," said council executive officer Terry Aulich. "There's nothing to prove homework gives kids an advantage in terms of literacy and numeracy."

Aulich said homework was not addressed in teacher education courses, and when the council first raised it as a topic for its national conference, some teachers considered it a low-level issue.

"They thought it wasn't worthy of intellectual study ... as if it were a minor issue, like the tuck shop," he said.

A discussion paper by the council says a review of the international research into homework reveals the evidence "is at best ambivalent" about the benefits.

Even in high school, the correlation between homework and performance is negligible.

The paper says some U.S. and British studies link homework to improved grades, school performance, attitude towards learning and time-management skills, with one arguing that "the more homework students complete, especially from grades 6 to 12, the better they do in school".

But a review of British research found the positive relationship was only true for high school.

Other studies found homework contributed to physical and emotional exhaustion and allowed little or no time for leisure and family activities.

An analysis of the International Trends in Mathematics and Science Study, which compares students in 50 countries, stated: "The overall correlations between national average student achievement and national averages in amount of homework assigned are all negative."

Aulich called for research on homework's effect on families and how children develop socially and intellectually.

Reuben Fromant, 8, is in third grade at a public school in Sydney's inner west and has been doing weekly homework since first grade, involving spelling lists, English comprehension and maths. His father, Bradley, said part of the pressure on teachers to set homework came from parents, who held the mistaken belief their child would be disadvantaged without it.

Fromant said the greatest value of homework was in the practice of doing it, but he was unconvinced of its necessity and supported a review.

"I support it inasmuch as at least it's good practice, but whether or not there's any scholastic advantage ... I don't think so," he said.