Kids have so much home­work, even par­ents are com­plain­ing

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY IOANNA FOTIADI

The dis­putes­be­tween par­ents and teach­ers when it comes to what’s best for chil­dren are a well-known phe­nom­e­non. Lately, home­work has be­come the fo­cus of Euro­pean par­ents, but with­out nec­es­sar­ily hav­ing an im­pact on stu­dent progress.

The dis­cus­sion cen­ters mainly around the ele­men­tary school cur­ricu­lum, the ma­te­rial of which, ac­cord­ing to many, can be cov­ered al­most en­tirely in the class­room. In Spain the is­sue has snow­balled, with par­ents even call­ing a home­work strike for their kids, while in Bri­tain many of the teach­ers share the same view. Ac­cord­ing to fig­ures from the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion and Devel­op­ment (OECD), 15-year-olds in Greece spend five hours a week on home­work, their Span­ish coun­ter­parts six-and-a-half hours, and the Finns just three.

In Greece, more and more par­ents and teach­ers be­lieve that home­work should be re­stricted. “I want my chil­dren to have free time,” says Maria Gi­ata, a spokes­woman for the As­so­ci­a­tion of Par­ents and Guardians of the Marasleio Ex­per­i­men­tal School and a mother of three, the youngest of which is in sec­ond grade. “The de­bate has started in Greece for par­ents to be dis­as­so­ci­ated from the learn­ing part of school life,” con­firms Gi­ata, declar­ing her­self in fa­vor of this trend. “The ideal is for the ed­u­ca­tional part of a child’s life to be un­der­taken by some­one who is prop­erly trained for that,” she says. “I, as a par­ent, first of all do not have the ex­pert knowl­edge and, se­condly, I am in­volved emo­tion­ally with the child, mak­ing teach­ing in my own home in­ef­fec­tive, since I do not have the de­tach­ment nor the pa­tience.”

How­ever, this de­pends on par­ents trust­ing the teach­ers and let­ting them get on with their work. “The re­la­tion­ship of trust is a pre­req­ui­site, oth­er­wise the par­ent may be­lit­tle the teacher in the eyes of the child.” Her youngest daugh­ter, re­turn­ing from ele­men­tary school, has half an hour of study­ing, which she does alone, and then plenty of free time to re­lax and play. Her mother is in reg­u­lar com­mu­ni­ca­tion with her teacher and works to­gether with her when nec­es­sary. “She doesn’t do any ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties yet,” says her mother. “My two older chil­dren do two hours of English lessons and my son plays bas­ket­ball.”

Gi­ata says that par­ents at the Marasleio school fall into two cat­e­gories. “A large num­ber of par­ents want home­work and like to study with their child be­cause they feel that they them­selves can help more,” she ob­serves.

“Many par­ents ap­pre­ci­ate or ask for more home­work, be­cause in this way, they de­lay the tu­to­rial schools and there­fore save money,” says an ed­u­ca­tor who has been a teacher for 13 years. “They are prob­a­bly the ma­jor­ity, and they re­proach us when we don’t pile home­work on their chil­dren.”

Think­ing that chil­dren need stim­u­la­tion, the ma­jor­ity of par­ents en­rich their daily life with mul­ti­ple ac­tiv­i­ties – be­yond sports and lan­guages, the list in­cluded ro­bot­ics, 3D print­ing, pro­gram­ming and more. “The lack of pub­lic sports fa­cil­i­ties and leisure cen­ters forces par­ents to find al­ter­na­tives for chil­dren to burn off their en­ergy,” said Gi­ata. “The ideal is for these to be part of the school’s pro­gram,” she says.

“The above dis­cus­sion ap­plies to all the schools where I have worked,” says the 53-year-old teacher. “The view that we must al­low chil­dren free time is not new, but it has ac­quired more ur­gency.”

Ac­cord­ing to data from the OECD, 15year-olds in Greece spend five hours a week on home­work, their Span­ish coun­ter­parts six-and-a-half hours, and the Finns just three.

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