Concern over plan to reduce homework

national January 31, 2013 00:00


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Expert warns of unintended impacts

Concerned by the Education Ministry’s move to reduce homework for students, an education expert yesterday warned that such a policy must be implemented carefully, otherwise it would reduce students’ skills instead of providing more time for them to learn from different activities.

Professor Sirichai Kanjanawasee, former dean of the faculty of education at Chulalongkorn University, said he agreed with the move to reduce the amount of homework, but teachers will have to be watchful of the impact on students.

“Teachers in different subjects should discuss and plan together how they would reduce the amount of homework. For example, they could integrate a lesson on two or three subjects into one assignment. So students could practise the required skills of all these subjects in the assignment. They should adjust their teaching as well, making it more integrated with other subjects. Also, they should adjust examinations to be more integrated,” he said.

It’s up to the ministry to set guidelines on the proper amount of homework, he said.

“The number of assignments varies from school to school. I’m worried that some schools that ordinarily assign their students little homework will be given even less homework,” Sirichai said.

Dr Panpimol Wipulakorn, director of the Rajanukul Institute under the Department of Mental Health, said primary-school students should spend no more than an hour doing homework or reviewing their lessons at home; secondary-school students should spend no longer than two hours.

A similar homework-reduction policy was implemented about 10 years ago, but academic achievements crept lower. Since then, the ministry has had students study harder and do more homework.

According to the Office of the Basic Education Commission, from the next academic year, teachers would have to plan together to integrate curricula, teaching and homework assignments. Students would then have more time to learn from activities outside classrooms.

Education Minister Phongthep Thepkanjana said primary-school students had very little homework, but upper-secondary students had to do much more.

Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva sees the homework-reduction move as a “junior populist policy” that could indulge children.

Parents and students have mixed opinions.

“I study eight subjects per day and have assignments from every subject, and also deadlines for handing in the assignments are similar. So I don’t have enough time for other activities,” said Phuno Thepsathija, a Matthayom 5 (Grade 11) student in Bangkok.

A mother of a Prathom 3 (Grade 3) student said her daughter had many assignments sometimes, but she could handle them.

Students commenting on an Internet forum agreed that exercises are useless if they are boring. Teachers should keep homework using creative ideas to spark learning, they said.

A mother of a Matthayom 6 (Grade 12) student urged the ministry to leave the homework matter up to the schools because each school is different. She worried that some students would spend more time on unproductive activities, like chatting online.