School is almost back; and for most students that means homework is just around the corner too.

It’s a topic guaranteed to divide parental opinions. Depending on who you talk to, homework can either steal students’ childhoods, or is an integral part of education that schools don’t do enough of these days.

But what does the research say?

Reviews of the research to date have consistently found that homework has small but significant positive effects on academic achievement, across subjects and year groups.

And according to the OECD, homework appears to be especially important for students at risk of being low performers in mathematics. Those 15-year-old students who spend around 7 hours per week on homework are 70% less likely to be low performers than students who do no homework, even after accounting for socioeconomic background and other relevant factors.

However, the OECD also found there are “diminishing returns” to homework: beyond a certain amount, extra homework doesn’t help any further.

It also depends on the quality of homework. For example, colouring in a picture of Dora the Explorer is not good homework; but assigned reading or practising maths problems can be very beneficial.

Developing good home study habits in the early years of school is almost certainly a good thing. It can help to reinforce classroom learning and develop automaticity — the ability to instantly recall essential knowledge in order to allow students to complete more difficult tasks.

And it can be a great opportunity for parents to have some involvement and monitor progress — as long as the homework tasks are of a high quality and aren’t excessively reliant on parental support.

While the right kind of homework in the correct amounts is valuable, it is not a loved activity: it creates extra work for teachers, and most students don’t like doing it.

But if we want to set and maintain high expectations of Australian students, then ensuring they become comfortable doing some schoolwork outside of school hours is essential. Fifteen minutes of homework per day during primary school won’t steal anyone’s childhood.

Author: Blaise Joseph

This article was first published by the Centre for Independent Studies, and is republished with permission. You may not use, copy, distribute, publish, syndicate, sub-license and transmit the whole or any part of such material in any manner and in any format and/or media without the permission of the original publishers.

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