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Homework in the 21st Century Teaching and Learning

The aim of the K to 12 Basic Education Program is to provide the Filipino Learners with the necessary skills and competence to prepare them to take on challenges of the 21st Century. While we all struggle on shifting schools and teaching in the 21st century, more bills and policy recommendations have been filed to guarantee effective implementation of the K to 12 program.

The recent issues about homework which divides our society is a proof that we may not be ready yet to fully embrace the 21st Century teaching and learning. The 21st Century students, Generation Z (born between 1995 and 2009) and Generation Alpha (born since 2010) continue to be educated in the same manner their teachers were taught in the past. Many teachers complain that today’s learners are disengaged and unmotivated. These are the same students who challenge the standardized curriculum as merely rote learning at a one-size-fits-all pace. They are the students who keep on asking themselves why they still need to go to school when they could learn the same information faster by watching a YouTube video or playing a computer game in their bedrooms. To these digital natives, past methods make little sense because they are able to learn and think differently. They are able to teach themselves about any topic they are interested in because answers to their questions are just a quick search away. Making use of information is far more important to them than simply knowing things.

These students who are advanced users of technology (yes! far better than the teacher does) regard obsolete methods of teachers as no longer relevant and not helping them. Therefore, there is a crucial need to examine matters that have stayed the same in schools: Are we still in the traditional classroom set-up? Are teachers equipped to be 21st Century teaching and learning facilitators? Is homework still relevant in the 21st Century?

Advantages of Homework

Homework, according to Dr. Linda Milbourne, is intended to be a positive experience that encourages children to learn. Teachers assign homework to help students review, apply and integrate what has been learned in class; to extend student exploration of topics more fully than class time permits, and to help students prepare for the next class session. Teachers believe that homework helps children to acquire effective habits of self-discipline and time management. It is hoped to develop children’s initiative to work independently where they can gain a sense of personal responsibility for learning. Research skills such as locating, organizing and condensing information may be developed, and children will be given the opportunity to learn to use libraries and other reference resources.

Disadvantages of Homework

However, giving of homework, as part of the daily lesson plans, becomes a controversial issue among teachers, parents, and students. Contemporary critics are questioning the impact and benefit homework does on student learning and on how it has aided the students in becoming life-long learners. While it is true that students’ homework may not be included in the recording of formative and summative assessment as components in the grading system under DepEd Order 8, s. 2015, these critics strongly believe that homework given by the teachers are not actually meeting the purposes they are intended for. They see homework as activities where students figure out the content that the teacher did not have time to “cover” during school hours. According to them, students do busywork to demonstrate to their parents and teachers that they are doing “something”. The students of this generation see homework as meaningless assignments to merely “justify” their quarterly grades. But when teachers do not give homework, parents see it as a lack of academic instruction. And of course, we are all aware that most of the submitted assignments were not actually done by those who comply to this requirement. It is their parents who are doing homework for their children in order to have a “better” project than their classmates or parents are doing homework for their children because they are too frustrated or stressed out that their children cannot complete it themselves.

Recent Research Findings

Joseph S.C. Simplicio in his study on Homework in the 21st century: the antiquated and ineffectual implementation of a time-honored educational strategy, concluded that although the practice of assigning homework on a daily basis has been deemed academically sound by most in the educational community, on the opposing side, many parents with children in grades ranging from kindergarten through college argue that students are expected to spend too much of their out of school time completing homework assignments that are often redundant and meaningless.

Alfie Kohn in his article on The Truth About Homework pointed out that homework might be used for certain skills that need to become automated, but not to create understanding. According to him, the widely held belief that homework reinforces the skills that students have learned or, rather, have been taught in class has not been substantially supported. He added that it wouldn’t make sense to say “Keep practicing until you understand!” because practicing doesn’t create understanding. Just as giving kids a deadline doesn’t teach time-management skills. According to Kohn, what might make sense is to say “Keep practicing until what you’re doing becomes automatic.

Teachers and Homework by Stephen Carr talk about homework as enrichment and calls for a commitment to quality and time appropriate homework. According to him, “Teachers should make homework a task that has some worth – some value to a student’s life. Never, ever should it be a busy work. Assigning 50 problems to complete at home is worthless.”

These studies conclude that homework assignments are mostly meaningless, busywork, and take time away from “just being a kid. It is for these reasons that Rep. Evelina Escudero introduced the “No Homework Policy” to promote quality family interaction. This bill is also intended to compel schools and teachers to come up with a more holistic and effective pedagogy.

“There is a need for all educators to seriously reflect and discuss whether homework is a component in the child’s learning that stands strong and unaltered by the winds of time. Does it have a place in the 21st-century teaching and learning? or is it a practice that needs to be changed for the sake of precious family quality time? Would it be the only effective method to reinforce learning goals?”

As a mother and teacher, I agree with Usec. Diosdado San Antonio when he said that homework may be allowed but should be given in moderation and no homework should be given to learners during weekends. I also agree with the sentiments of teachers that there is no need to penalize those who give homework to ensure compliance. Before we defend our beliefs, there is a need for all educators to seriously reflect and discuss whether homework is a component in the child’s learning that stands strong and unaltered by the winds of time. Does it have a place in 21st-century teaching and learning? or is it a practice that needs to be changed for the sake of precious family quality time? Would it be the only effective method to reinforce learning goals?” Let us weigh all the consequences before we agree or disagree. It is the welfare of the learners that matters the most.

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Margarita Lucero Galias

Margarita L. Galias began her career in education as a high school math and physics teacher in Immanuel Lutheran High School in Malabon City and Manila Central University, Caloocan City before serving as a public school teacher in Sorsogon City in 1995. She was a university scholar and graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Education, major in Math-Physics from De La Salle Araneta University. She also holds a master’s degree in Management, major in Administration and Supervision from Sorsogon State College. She is now currently employed in Mercedes B. Peralta Senior High School as a classroom teacher and a guidance counselor designate.

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