25 October 2016
The heavy burden of homework is likely to take a toll on children’s development. Photo: HKEJ
The heavy burden of homework is likely to take a toll on children’s development. Photo: HKEJ

Are you willing to take the first step for our students’ sake?

Antony Leung Kam-chung, former chairman of the Education Commission, once said: “Education should be aimed at helping our children realize their true potential and build up their knowledge. And by empowering them through education, we hope they can develop the ability to take control of their own future and push back the frontiers of their lives.”

However, under our current spoon-feeding education system, schools give absolute priority to drilling students for exams over promoting independent thinking.

So is our education system really achieving its aims?

Ask any primary or secondary school teacher who is forced to spoon-feed their students under the current system, and they will tell you that the answer is definitely “no”.

However, there is still hope out there. At least 15 schools have taken the first positive step in this school term by introducing new measures to revolutionize the way our children are learning and reverse the prevailing trend under which teachers are nothing more than a knowledge dispenser for passive students.

These new measures, which include “homework-free week” and capping the amount of textbook contents students have to copy and recite every week, aim to give students more time to explore their potentials and develop leisure-time interests.

These new measures are actually inspired by similar initiatives in the West since 2012, such as the “no homework policy” in some American and French schools.

Whether the “no homework policy” should be fully adopted by mainstream schools is still pretty much under dispute, but members of the education sector agree on one thing: too much homework works against the students’ development.

According to a study in the United States, elementary and high school students should spend no more than one hour on homework every day, or else it is likely to undermine their motivation for learning.

However, according to a survey conducted by the Caritas Youth and Community Service in January this year, primary school students in Hong Kong spend an average of three to four hours on homework each day, and such workload is likely to take a heavy toll on their childhood development, deprive them of the time to develop leisure interests and discourage them from learning.

I hope more schools will take the first step and remove the homework burden from our students.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept. 22.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Professor in the Department of Social Work and Social Administration at the University of Hong Kong

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