Do Spanish kids get too much homework?

Spain parents urged to put children on weekend homework strike 


Parents associations group calls for month-long boycott by state schools pupils in protest against "unacceptable" workload 


Parents in Spain are being urged to go on a weekend homework strike this month in protest against the “unacceptable” amount of after-school tasks their children are given.

The homework load of Spanish children has long been a sore point with some parents, who argue that the burden is too great, places too much pressure on pupils and eats into family time.

According to a 2012 study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Spanish 15-year-olds have 6.5 hours of homework a week compared with an average of 4.9 across the 38 OECD countries.

The Spanish Confederation of Associations of Mothers and Fathers of Students (Ceapa) has decided that enough is enough and is calling on parents whose children attend Spanish state schools to boycott weekend homework in November.

“We’ve lost a bit of common sense in this country when it comes to talking about education and we’ve got a system in which boys’ and girls’ free time has disappeared,” said José Luis Pazos, president of Ceapa.

“Schools are passing on tasks to families that they shouldn’t be. They’ve made us into second teachers and left children in the latter stages of secondary children with up to 60 hours of schoolwork a week. It starts with children from the ages of three to six doing half an hour’s homework every day. For us, that’s an unacceptable situation.”

Pazos said Ceapa disagreed profoundly with the notion that children should endure huge amounts of homework in the hope that it would ensure them a better future.

“They should be happy when they’re little and learn that life isn’t just about someone telling you that you have to suffer inexplicably,” he said, adding: “The model needs to change because society has changed.”

Schoolchildren have to fit their homework around the school day, which varies from region to region and school to school, but starts early – from around 8am or 9am – and finishes anywhere between 2pm and 5pm (with a long lunch break). However, schools are increasingly using an 8am-2pm timetable to save money and in the face of evidence that suggests the longer hours do not yield better results.

Ceapa, which represents 12,000 parents associations, said the strike had received support from both parents and some teachers.

The group is providing striking parents with three letters to give to their children’s schools: one asking the headteacher not to set weekend homework, another making the same request of teachers, and a third explaining that the work has not been done because of the “constitutional right that families have to make what they consider to be the best decisions for family life, which is a private matter and one on which schools should not intrude”.

Parents waiting to pick up their children from the Padre Coloma infant and primary school in eastern Madrid on Wednesday afternoon said finding the right balance between homework and family life was sometimes tricky. None, however, seemed overly militant about the issue.

Patricia Ruiz said her eight-year-old son would be getting five tasks this weekend, which would take him about an hour and a half - long enough to cause arguments.

“I spend the whole day trying to get him to do his homework otherwise he’ll be punished,” she said. 

Ricky Pérez, a security worker, said he thought the school was giving pupils about the right amount: “It’s a normal level of homework here; they’re not doing it all day.”

Beatriz Velásquez, who works in cleaning, reckoned children now ought to be counting their blessings.

“When I went to school, we had homework all week and at weekends – about 14 hours a week [in total],” she said.

“My children have it easier as they don’t have as much as I did, or as much as they do at other schools. They have time to play, which is the most important thing. They need to study, but they also need to have the time to be kids.”

A spokesman for the education department of Madrid said homework was a matter for individual schools rather than regional governments.

“They’re the ones who know best what the need is in each case,” he said. “It’s a question of autonomy: the teachers know what the needs of every student and every class are. But we do urge that schools try to make sure that different teachers and departments coordinate homework so that they’re not all giving a lot of homework at the same time. We also recommend that schools explain their homework policy to parents when they enrol their children.”



Comments

Luis Carlos Fernández said…
My mother told me that while she was a teacher, if she was meeting with a parent for the first time and the parent demanded that his child didn't do homework, my mother would tell him that he could sign an authorization that exempted his child from doing homework and would only be evaluated by the final exam. However she would still send homework for the remaining students whose parents hadn't signed and would subsequently correct it, while the children of those that had signed would do whatever (follow the class, study, do nothing...).
Not a single parent ever signed the authorization.
Anonymous said…
Do Spanish kids get too much homework?
Well, I would like saying that I consider a weekend homework strike something strange, unprecedented. Certainly, I don’t agree with the association of parents when they say that their son can’t endure such amount of homework. I think it’s a dramatic vision and that it’s necessary to clarify some aspects of the problem.

First of all, I suppose that the amount of task depend on the teacher, the school or the age of the students. It’s very difficult talk in general terms about this problem because you can find a variety of situations. In fact, even in the same school, not all the teachers have the same requirement level. It’s a lack of common sense to encourage your son to disobey the teacher and not doing homework. If the teacher is disavowed by the parents and children, then he won’t be able to develop your work in class properly, and this is something essential for a good education. It’s impossible to reach great goals in the education system with these bad conditions.

By the other hand, I don’t understand well the parent’s reasons when they deplore the lack of free time of their son. Well, I think It’s very common in the Spanish typical middle class programme a diversity of activities for the children in the evening, after school: English class (or other languages), ballet, music class, sports, etc. So, do the parents want more free time for more activities in the evening? I think this is the point.
José Luis professor
Graham said…
Hi Luis,

I almost overlooked your comment here.

If your mother was a teacher, I'm sure you will understand the difficulties that we sometimes face.

I haven't spotted any mistakes in your comment. Just bear in mind that sentences in English are generally shorted than Spanish ones.




Graham said…
Hi JL,

I'm in two minds about this.

I think that Spanish kids are given a lot of homework but it is often left uncorrected.

It is very difficult for me to arrange lessons with children because they are so busy doing other things.

On the other hand, it is just typical here for people to do their best to get out of doing any kind of work.



Well, I would like to say that I consider a weekend homework strike rather strange, unprecedented. Certainly, I don’t agree with the association of parents when they say that their child can’t endure such an amount of homework / so much homework. I think it’s a dramatic vision and that it’s necessary to clarify some aspects of the problem.

First of all, I suppose that the amount of tasks depends on the teacher, the school or the age of the students. It’s very difficult talk in general terms about this problem because you can find a variety of situations. In fact, even in the same school, not all the teachers have the same requirement level. It’s a lack of common sense to encourage your child to disobey the teacher and not do homework. If the teacher is disavowed by the parents and children, then he won’t be able to develop his work in class properly, and this is something essential for a good education. It’s impossible to reach great goals in the education system with these bad conditions.

On the other hand, I don’t really understand the parent’s reasons when they deplore the lack of free time of their child. Well, I think it’s very common in the Spanish typical middle class programme a diversity of activities for the children in the evening, after school: English classes (or other languages), ballet, music classes, sports, etc. So, do the parents want more free time for more activities in the evening? I think this is the point.

Anonymous said…
As a father of two children aged 8 and 9 I have mixed feelings about homework. Although I consider homeworks essential to reinforce the new knowlegdes learned at
school, an excess of work load can may discourage children from schooling.

In my opinion a small amount of homework are positive because they create a study habit in the children. They got a rutine to do when they arrive at home other than watch the tv. Sitting alone and concentrate in the exercises. Once they are teached how to deal with the task they became autonomous and that is a positive motivation. I encourage my sons to try to solve the homework by themselves at first instance, then ask for help.
Besides, it allowed me to see the improvement of their skills as writting, reading, problems solving, etc.

On the other hand an excess of workload can easily ruin their study motivation. The longer it takes to finish the worse. They lose the attention required. More than 30 minutes at those stages is a bit of wasting time.

I suppose that it is also difficult, from the point of view of the teacher, to assess which is the right amount of homework to deliver. Maybe they should try to customized the tasks for each pupil to get the most of the homework time.


Daniel
Graham said…
Hi Daniel,

I am pleased to see you making use of the blog. Hopefully, it'll be a regular thing. :-)


As a father of two children aged 8 and 9, I have mixed feelings about homework. Although I consider homework (it's UNC) essential to reinforce the new knowledge (UNC too) learned at school, an excess of workload may discourage children from schooling.

In my opinion, a small amount of homework is positive because they get the children into the habit of studying. They have a routine to do when they arrive home other than watching tv. Sitting alone and concentrating on the exercises. Once they are taught how to deal with the task, they become autonomous and that is a strong motivation. I encourage my sons to try to solve the homework by themselves at first, before asking for help.

Besides, it allows me to see the improvement of their skills such as writing, reading, problem solving, etc.

On the other hand a heavy workload can easily ruin their motivation to study. The longer it takes to finish, the worse it is. They lose the attention which is) required. More than 30 minutes is a bit of a waste of time.

I suppose that it is also difficult, from the point of view of the teacher, to assess which is the right amount of homework to set. Maybe they should try to customize the tasks for each pupil to get the most out of / make the most of homework time.



I am sure that your kids will follow your example when they see you studying English so hard.