Aproposal by a lawmaker in the Philippines to ban homework for school students on weekends should find resonance in India. The lawmaker, Sam Versoza, a member of the country’s House of Representatives has moved a Bill to stop schools from giving weekend homework to elementary and high school students. Arguing that students are being overworked and yet trail behind those from other countries, Mr. Versoza wants the Philippines to follow the example of countries such as Finland, China, South Korea and Japan. He says one hour of homework on weekdays should be sufficient for students; anything more is a source of stress to both parents and students.
Correlating the burden placed on students with the high levels of dropouts, he says this is because school is not fun anymore. Soon after coming to power in Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party had announced steps to reduce the workload of students up to class 8 by 25 per cent and of those in higher classes by 20 per cent. Announcing the decision, the government had argued that the future of children could not be burdened by their heavy school bags, and that obsolete syllabi had to be replaced by skill development, theatre, art, music and sports.
The writ of the government, though, extended only to schools under its control; private schools in the capital, and elsewhere, blithely continued to burden their students with more assignments and homework, on the ground that secondary and senior secondary examinations played a pivotal role in determining their future. The role of parents in pushing their children to the brink, in aspirational societies such as the Philippines and India, cannot be underestimated; often it is found that they find it necessary to inflict private tuitions on children already carrying a heavy burden. Many private schools use results of the Class X examination to offer ~ or withhold ~ admission to their own students in Class XI, adding to the academic stress. The effect of student workloads on their well-being is well established.
Research conducted by the Lewis and Clark College in America in 2018 had found that chronic stress caused by excessive homework induced negative physical, mental and behaviour outcomes. These included physical problems such as headaches, sweating, exhaustion, sleeping and breathing problems, and psychological ailments such as a feeling that they were leading unbalanced lives. Studies have also established that more work hours for students do not always lead to better learning outcomes, and that the stresses of school often carry over to college and can lead to serious mental ailments. Education planners in India would do well to study the legislation proposed by the Philippine lawmaker. There are many lessons to be learnt if we want our children to be happy and well-rounded individuals.