“But some children, as well as their parents, are doubtful that they will have much time to enjoy the mid-year vacation” (June Break Packed With Homework, Miss Lisa Oon).
The school holidays are here, and they are accompanied by familiar laments: schoolchildren are inundated by too much homework, too many holiday assignments, and too many school commitments. This chorus of complaints, usually articulated by concerned parents (“June Break Packed With Homework” by Miss Lisa Oon, June 6, 2013), has not abated, because they are concerned that their children could be needlessly stressed and overwhelmed. They are especially concerned about the homework load, when they see their young ones desperately trying to cram and complete their tasks days before the school term begins.
Year after year, the Ministry of Education and its policymakers have responded to these queries with similar replies. Because it will not be prudent to prevent schools from issuing holiday homework – given that students would be able to “consolidate” and “revise” what they have learnt – schools have simply been told to “calibrate” the workload, to make sure that it is not “excessive”. In other words, there is the persistent fear that they might forget what has been taught, and that constant drilling is imperative. This point has not been lost on some parents, who send their children to multiple tuition and enrichment centres for additional practice (particularly when major examinations are imminent).
Working directly with the teachers appears to be the most straightforward and reasonable solution, with regard to managing the homework and assignments. Already bogged down by other administrative responsibilities and the need to complete the syllabuses, they might find it difficult to coordinate with their colleagues. Students must sound out. Beyond the pedantic issuing of homework, the inputs from students can be meaningful for educators to determine if the worksheets are effective. Do they simply reinforce antiquated processes of rote memorisation and regurgitation? Or do they actually encourage learning?
I have always been a proponent for schoolwork, because it allows for self-reflection, to establish how much has been absorbed. Yet, besides the traditional arguments for children to have more rest during the holidays, I have grown increasingly sceptical about the status quo. Perhaps we are not stretching our kids the right way, and continued confinement to classroom practices will do real good. Maybe the holidays should be a time for young students to read and learn on their own; to do some work, either in an office or the community; or to explore personal areas of interest on the Internet. All this, while having some fun at the same time.
A holiday, by definition, is a time for leisure and recreation. Even a hard-ass like me might have to concede – based on anecdotal observations – the kids do deserve their break after months of hard graft.