A couple of weeks ago we got to be a talking head on the pages of the Guardian, banging on about the amount of homework our kids (especially the eldest) have to do. You can read the article here should you wish.
The piece came in response to a homework ‘strike’ by Spanish school kids fed up with the amount of extra work they were being asked to do. They should try our lad’s schedule. Their strike would quickly become a revolution.
Son of Bucharest Life leaves for school at 11:30. He comes home at 18:30, eats, rests briefly and then cracks on with his homework, rarely finishing much before midnight. That’s a twelve-hour day. On Mondays and Tuesdays he has extra lessons (two hours each morning). He works far harder than either of his parents. There is very little (if any) time for television, music or going out. And the weekend is not that much different: there is still a ton of homework to get through.
Is it correct that a 14-year-old should work a 12 or 14 hour day?
No, it isn’t.
Which is why we welcome a new directive from the Romanian Ministry of Education that wants to limit the amount of homework teachers can assign. According to the new rules, there should be a maximum of one hour’s homework per day for classes 1-4, and a maximum of two hours for classes 5-8. Teachers will not be allowed to assign any homework at all for the school holidays. All of this alas comes too late for our eldest (already in class eight), but will – if it can be implemented, and it is a big if – help the youngest who is currently in class three.
Unfortunately, we can’t see the new rules having any real impact. How, for a start, will they be policed? In our experience parents are reluctant to complain about too much homework. In fact, in their desperate desire to make their kids look diligent and earnest they will often complain that there is not enough homework. Teachers will also need to learn to communicate with each other, to make sure that homework from only one subject is handed out each day. That will be a challenge too far for many.
So while the directive is an encouraging sign – albeit a minor one – that the right of children to have a life outside school is at least on the agenda, it will need a seismic shift in attitudes before there are any real changes. Both teachers and parents need to be less obsessed with homework, and children need to be made aware of the fact that they have rights, both inside and outside of school, and then given the power to make use of those rights, to say No! to their teachers. The days of blind obedience must come to an end.
Of course, homework is just one of many aspects of the Romanian education system that needs reforming. But we will save the rest for a longer rant another day.