24 February 2019
Most primary pupils are handed at least seven assignments on average per day, according to a survey conducted by a teachers' union. Photo: HKEJ
Most primary pupils are handed at least seven assignments on average per day, according to a survey conducted by a teachers' union. Photo: HKEJ

Primary pupils burdened by excessive homework, survey shows

Primary students in Hong Kong are largely overburdened with homework assigned by teachers, with most students having to do at least seven assignments on average per day, a survey showed.

According to a poll conducted by the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (HKPTU), more than 50 percent of the teachers surveyed said pupils taught by them do at least seven assignments daily while eight percent said their pupils even have to do as many as 10 assignments on average a day.

In comparison, only 3 percent said their pupils have one to three assignments handed to them per day, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

HKPTU conducted a survey by sending emailed questionnaires to primary school teachers, aiming to gather insights on the work that pupils are required to do during and after classes.

In the survey that was conducted between December last year and mid-January this year, the union received a total of 425 replies, mostly from those who having been teaching Chinese, English and mathematics for at least 10 years.

The results showed that pupils have to put with assignments that can be deemed a bit excessive.

With regard to assignments that are required to be completed during weekends, 85 percent of the respondents said they would give students at least seven assignments. Forty percent said the number can reach 10 or more.

Half of the respondents said the amount of homework given to students was rather huge or too much, compared to 44 percent who considered it adequate.

In addition heavy homework, the survey also found many pupils had to take additional lessons or receive tutoring before or after class, during breaks, or even at weekends.

The median of time spent on such extra learning was five hours a week, time which otherwise could have been spent to take rest or playing.

The findings came at a time when many parents have been criticizing the Education Bureau (EDB) over its new but controversial Basic Competency Assessment (BCA) — which is widely regarded as being no different from its predecessor, the Territory-wide System Assessment(TSA) — saying the test is putting too much pressure on the children.

According to HKPTU, based on the survey findings, there are four major reasons that contribute to excessive homework for students. They are: cluttered curriculum with too much coverage; deep-rooted culture of drilling and examinations; pressure arising from TSA or BCA; and the EDB’s policies such as those in relation to promoting Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.

A primary school general studies teacher admitted that teachers dare not reduce the amount of homework assigned to students because they fear doing so may be evaluated as failing to fulfill their duties, and may therefore affect future promotions or renewal of contracts, even though the EDB has provided homework guidelines.
Another person, who has 16 years of English teaching experience, said she had tried to cut down on students’ homework, only to end up facing complaints from parents.

A top-down reform is needed to give back pupils a happy childhood, she said.

Asked to respond to the survey findings, the EDB urged teachers to focus more on quality rather than quantity of homework.

Assignments should be designed and handed out based on students’ capabilities, learning needs and interests, with well-defined objectives, the bureau said.

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