While an entire month free of homework or tests may sound too good to be true, that is precisely what the students at Sturenskolan School in Boden, Sweden were treated to in April. What’s more, if the results of the experiment prove encouraging, starting 2019, the middle schoolers will never have to worry about after-school work or tests, aside from the national examinations, which are mandatory for students across the country.
The school’s principal, Petronella Sirkka, who came up with the idea, told Swedish national public broadcaster SVT, “We are constantly receiving new reports that our children feel bad. And that’s because they have a very high-stress level all the time. This is our way of trying to reduce that stress.”
The educator says that while banning homework and tests sounds radical, it makes sense given the changes in curriculum and approach to education. While in the past students were primarily subjected to memorizing and regurgitating facts, learning today is all about reflection and analysis. As a result, it is often harder for kids, especially those with little support at home, to comprehend the material by themselves. Hence, it is only fair to grade them based on their class work.
Sirkka is not the only one who believes after-school work does not help students learn. In March 2018, the principal at École Elizabeth Ballantyne, an elementary school in Montreal, Canada, also decided to do away with homework. They hope parents will spend the extra time reading to their kids.
The debate over how much, if any, homework kids should be given is not new. In their 2006 book The Case Against Homework, authors Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish argue that while there is no proof of the benefits of homework, there is plenty of evidence of its adverse effects. A 2014 Stanford University study conducted on 4,000 students revealed that the daily stress of after-school work not only leads to decreased interaction with friends and family, but also results in sleeping disorders and physical ailments such as headaches.
While the long-term impact of the recent decisions made by the two educators remains to be seen, the experiment has already proved successful in Finland. The Nordic country, which is at the forefront of education reform, has done away with homework, grades, and even teaching by subjects for many years. Yet, Finnish students always rank high in the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) tests especially in math and science! Hopefully, it will only be a matter of time before US educators follow their lead and ban after-school work as well!
Resources: yahoo.com,sputnicknews.com, NPR.org