I was left confused after reading the commentary by Miss Amelia Teng, “Homework: Helpful or a Headache?” (April 20, 2013). What exactly is the main concern: are the interviewed parents dissatisfied with holiday homework (which is what the headline proclaims); are they concerned with the heavy commitment to co-curricular activities (CCA); or a combination of both issues (though they are two separate issues, with dissimilar objectives)? Should we then move to reduce workloads and time spent in the school?
We really are making a mountain out of a molehill, aren’t we? Insofar as we accept the justifications for homework and CCA, the real solution is for students to work collaboratively with their teachers-in-charge, to make the necessary arrangements or changes.
If there are simply too many assignments, or too many projects from different tutors, then these worries should be communicated accordingly to the educators. They are certainly flexible enough to know that students might be overwhelmed by responsibilities, so extensions can be granted (provided the requests are relayed in advance). Moreover, CCAs should not be perceived as burdens, because the members should be motivated by passion or interest. They should comprehend the need for practice and trainings, as well as the dedication needed to do well in their endeavours. Staff members or coaches managing the activities are certainly cognisant of family events too, and can exercise flexibility if their students correspond with them early on.
Laments such as “even my family life is controlled by school” and “[o]ur vacations have to match her CCA schedule” sound ludicrous and selfish to me, because what else do parents expect? For schools to plan programmes around their personal schedules or predilections? For teachers to cater to the whims and fancies of their schoolchildren and parents? And for family holidays or demands to take precedence over the general preferences of a class or activity group? Putting such remarks in perspective, I believe that many of the “problems” or concerns highlighted in Miss Teng’s piece could be alleviated if some parents exercised greater empathy for their children’s teachers.
It would not be too ridiculous to posit that the students of these parents might think that they are entitled to have a homework-less, CCA-less holiday, and that they should be enjoying themselves all the time. These self-serving mentalities – that I deserve these privileges, instead of earning them – should not be allowed to manifest.
Parents can play their roles too. Rather than mollycoddling their young ones, and echoing convenient sentiments of being burdened by too much schoolwork, the holidays present wonderful opportunities to learn the importance of time management and prioritising. As many instances have shown, if the kid adopts a positive attitude, makes less excuses, and is empowered to make the right decisions, then a proper school-life balance is plausible.
So what is the point of the commentary? I remain clueless.
A version of this article was published in The Straits Times.