Homework has become such an integral part of the education system that even the question of its usefulness does not arise.
And what about the homework?
There was a time when children were sent off to school and parents sat back and watched their wards get an education. There were no weekly sessions between parents and teachers to discuss the progress of their wards. Nor were there meetings with the school counsellor to tell parents were they erred. Not so today. More and more parents are complaining of the stress of `doing' their children's homework. With both parents working, there is an underlying feeling of being blackmailed into feeling that they are not doing enough for their kids. So, gruelling evenings are spent learning physics or chemistry. Says Justin, an advertising executive based in New Delhi, "I resent having to sit with lessons when I get home in the evenings. I'd rather spent time with my daughter reading or listening to music or just talking." There is resentment from many parents that their already stressful lives are further burdened with the homework duty piled on.
Geetha Rajan, a high school teacher in Chennai says, "Parents have no business doing their children's homework. Homework is generally a recap of what happens in the classroom. So where is the need for the parent to do it? "
Gowri, a mother of a school going child, says that if you want your child to do well in school, you will have to sit with him. "It is only because of the time I spend with him that he does well."
Parents feel obliged to help their children after school, for they seem to be making a desperate attempt to improve the standards of education. Untrained teachers, large turnover of teachers and schools with no proper equipment have all a part to play. And in the process the school has become an informal instrument for monitoring parental behaviour. Many parents share Justin's resentment. But they are not up to withstanding the pressure from the school.
It is to avoid this monitoring that most parents do the homework. But they need to realise that all that is required of them is supervision. Teach the child to take responsibility for his/her work.
Says Vanitha, a journalist and mother of two a son and a daughter. "I sit with my son while he does his homework. I have to take up his work after he has finished learning his lesson. More often than not, I have to explain the lesson to him before he begins to study." Sitting with her son for an hour or more has paid off, as he is a class topper. She used to supervise her daughter too but then slowly got her to do her work herself. She is now teaching her son to work on his own, but it is taking longer, she says.
Meera Klein, also a mother of two, lives in Davis, California, U.S. She says that when she sits with her kids while they do their projects or lessons they seem to fare better. Most often getting an A. She says more important is that when you sit with your kids while they do their lessons, you are aware of their rate of progress. So it comes as less of a shock when at the end of the term the kid comes home with a D or an A! Her theory is that she teaches them to take pride in their work... so they work on making it the best.
For mothers like Vanitha, Gowri and Meera it is a question of priorities and ensuring their kids get good grades is obviously the top of the charts.
Malathi Thomas, a primary school teacher says, when the child gets home it is up to the parents to see that he/she puts in at least an hour of work. "When this happens regularly, it becomes part of a routine. The child knows he has to do his/her work and slowly the sense of responsibility settles in."
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