The disputes between parents and teachers when it comes to what’s best for children are a well-known phenomenon. Lately, homework has become the focus of European parents, but without necessarily having an impact on student progress.
The discussion centers mainly around the elementary school curriculum, the material of which, according to many, can be covered almost entirely in the classroom. In Spain the issue has snowballed, with parents even calling a homework strike for their kids, while in Britain many of the teachers share the same view. According to figures from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 15-year-olds in Greece spend five hours a week on homework, their Spanish counterparts six-and-a-half hours, and the Finns just three.
In Greece, more and more parents and teachers believe that homework should be restricted. “I want my children to have free time,” says Maria Giata, a spokeswoman for the Association of Parents and Guardians of the Marasleio Experimental School and a mother of three, the youngest of which is in second grade. “The debate has started in Greece for parents to be disassociated from the learning part of school life,” confirms Giata, declaring herself in favor of this trend. “The ideal is for the educational part of a child’s life to be undertaken by someone who is properly trained for that,” she says. “I, as a parent, first of all do not have the expert knowledge and, secondly, I am involved emotionally with the child, making teaching in my own home ineffective, since I do not have the detachment nor the patience.”
However, this depends on parents trusting the teachers and letting them get on with their work. “The relationship of trust is a prerequisite, otherwise the parent may belittle the teacher in the eyes of the child.” Her youngest daughter, returning from elementary school, has half an hour of studying, which she does alone, and then plenty of free time to relax and play. Her mother is in regular communication with her teacher and works together with her when necessary. “She doesn’t do any extracurricular activities yet,” says her mother. “My two older children do two hours of English lessons and my son plays basketball.”
Giata says that parents at the Marasleio school fall into two categories. “A large number of parents want homework and like to study with their child because they feel that they themselves can help more,” she observes.
“Many parents appreciate or ask for more homework, because in this way, they delay the tutorial schools and therefore save money,” says an educator who has been a teacher for 13 years. “They are probably the majority, and they reproach us when we don’t pile homework on their children.”
Thinking that children need stimulation, the majority of parents enrich their daily life with multiple activities – beyond sports and languages, the list included robotics, 3D printing, programming and more. “The lack of public sports facilities and leisure centers forces parents to find alternatives for children to burn off their energy,” said Giata. “The ideal is for these to be part of the school’s program,” she says.
“The above discussion applies to all the schools where I have worked,” says the 53-year-old teacher. “The view that we must allow children free time is not new, but it has acquired more urgency.”