We don’t need no education

French Education policy is as barmy as ours. I find that thought strangely comforting.

Last week, the French President  vowed to abolish homework. 

Hollande said school work should “be done at school, rather than at home,” to foster educational equality because some students do not have support at home.

Give me strength, please.

Robust educational research points to homework as one of the best ways to improve educational outcomes for ALL students.

In the Sutton Trust toolkit – an evidence based resource to improve learning – impact data has been collected on a number of educational strategies from streaming to uniform. Homework, particularly for secondary school students, is rated as having a moderate impact, with a potential gain of 5 months (the advantage an average student will gain over a year), at a very low, to no cost. Combine that with homework tasks that encourage meta-cognition (encouraging the learner to consider how they learn: for example, setting a task that involves evaluating the reliability of a Wiki entry), then you have a high impact strategy, accelerating learning by up to 8 months, at no additional cost.

No real surprise there, if you think about it. Homework encourages engagement with the subject outside of the lesson and also prepares the student for the independent skills they will need to revise for the exams. For those who are intending on going to University, it is imperative they are equipped with the ability to study independently, and for those entering the workplace, to learn autonomously.

On the other hand, according to the Sutton School Trust, ‘after school programmes’ and ‘individualised programmes’, have a low impact  (2 months advantage), and are costly to implement. In other words, keeping children in school longer, won’t make them smarter. I wish politicians would just be honest and admit the reason they want schools to open longer is to help working parents with childcare, not because it will raise achievement.

Back in March, there was a national outcry in France, with parents demanding the abolition of homework because it stressed out their children and took up too much time. Call me cynical, but is that why Hollande is calling for this reform? Surely he wouldn’t put votes before the education of his country’s children, would he?

At least we are not alone. Cold comfort, really. 


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