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Too much homework for children leaves no time for Deeni Knowledge

How much homework should children be doing?

Many children and parents alike complain about the amount of homework and projects children are getting. According to a parent of a grade 2 child In South Africa using the National Curriculum Statement (NCS) system, her son would get twenty sums for maths; a page of language skills; twenty words and two sentences in the phonics workbook; 20 minutes of reading from their readers- English and/or Afrikaans; an oral (speech) once a week and projects of course. That is a total of no less than two hours of slaving for a 7 or 8 year old child, which for me is way too much.

A grade 6 learner in some schools in SA averages two projects for different subjects per month. The sad part is that formal projects are not completed in class many a times. The learners bring home formal assessments and their parents finish the projects. How unfair and what mark do teachers guilty of this give learners for work done by their parents?

Adding to the confusion, the sheer number of schools with varying curricula can pose a challenge for parents looking for consistency. In SA we have changed to Curriculum Policy Assessments Systems (CAPS). It is confusing for learners who have already been through NCS, OBE (Outcomes Based Education) and now CAPS in a single schooling career. CAPS is not a new curriculum, but an amendment to the National Curriculum Statement (NCS) Grades R-12, so that the curriculum is more accessible to teachers. So all teachers studying the old curriculum have to study again or rather amend their studies. Sounds messy to us, what about the poor kids? Even within a single district or school, homework expectations can vary widely depending on teachers.

While it’s clear that homework is a critical part of the learning process. Harris Cooper, a professor of psychology and director of Duke’s Program in Education said, analysis showed that too much homework can be counter-productive for students at all levels.

“Even for high school students, overloading them with homework is not associated with higher marks,” Cooper said.

Cooper said the research is consistent with the “10-minute rule” suggesting the optimum amount of homework that teachers ought to assign. The “10-minute rule,” Cooper said, is a commonly accepted practice in which teachers add 10 minutes of homework as students progress one grade. In other words, a fourth-grader would be assigned 40 minutes of homework a night, while a high school senior would be assigned about two hours. For upper high school students, after about two hours’ worth, more homework was not associated with higher achievement.

It is sad that a large amount of children have to go through a load of counter-productive homework. Parents should take it up with the school. They always take issues of this sort up with the maktabs.

So where does Islamic knowledge fit in? As a an educator of Deen my cry is not just balance but to give preference to Islamic knowledge because as Muslim, it is what governs our lives. I know that the children are stressed out by the work load of high-school especially, so do we just shift Islamic studies completely out of the way or shelf it and we can come back to it once the child has become a doctor? What happens in those formative years, what happens should your child die in that time that Islamic studies were boxed and shelved?

Whatever you do, do it well, secular or vernacular. Even Islam teaches us this. Why enforce that school homework be done first and neglect learning your salaah du’as for example? This is the problem that countless of Islamic educators are facing. We just cannot be good Muslims if we give preference over secular education. How many teenagers even miss salaah because of school homework? By the way, Islamic homework from maktabs and madrasahs is almost zero in comparison with school. Alot of it is oral.

Would it kill your child if he/she sat 15 to 20 minutes each day to memorise a surah or perfect his Qur-aan? That is 15 minutes of his/her which will benefit him/her in the Hereafter, the everlasting abode. Why is this not stressed in Muslim homes by parents? What does a teacher do when a child comes with a note from their parent saying “Sorry he did not do his homework as we went out for dinner”. If I did that in my school (growing up years), I would have been sent to the office after being caned- which I DO NOT advocate at all. So what does the Islamic educator do? “Its okay boy, dinner was more important”. ??? How then does a teacher enforce discipline without the use of punishment?

There are rules that we have to follow in life, school being no different. Why should maktabs or madrasahs be the exception to the rule? WHY I ask. Because Islamic educators earn less than teachers? Because they have kind hearts and they’ll just “understand”? Please I would like to know the reasoning behind it. Deen-ul Islam should be made important at home BEFORE a child comes to the maktab to learn. We are trying to make it easy on our learners, how much more though before our children start losing sight of what a Muslim’s purpose in this worldly life really is. Parents set the bench mark remember.

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