Parents in Sharjah have raised concerns over children being overburdened with school projects, which are taking a toll on family time and finances.
They have called on schools to examine how they deliver project-based learning to ease the pressure on young pupils.
The widely used education tool aims to broaden pupils' learning experience through practical tasks, which develop problem-solving skills. critical thinking and self-management.
For younger age groups, such assignments can include building robots and making models of houses and volcanoes, with older pupils often carrying out field visits and comprehensive research work.
Parents believe there is hardly any time left for the additional project work now that Sharjah has adopted a four-day week, in line with the three-day weekend introduced in the emirate in January.
“It has become very exhausting because after revising for kids, there is no time left for them to do projects and I end up doing them myself,” said Jumana Yousif, 35, from Jordan.
Her daughter, in grade four at a Sharjah private school, was once asked to make a large cardboard house.
“The school conducts quizzes almost on a daily basis, so by the time I finish revising for her, we are both exhausted and have no time for the project,” she said.
“My husband had to do it.”
Ms Yousif said schools should be directed to assign projects to pupils in groups and to have it carried out during school hours.
"Some projects like the cardboard house I did for my daughter took around three days of my time because I’m employed and don’t have time and this is a lot for a working parent or a parent who has more than one child."
Projects can 'be a burden'
Mother of two Majida Mahmoud, 42, said schools need to take into account the challenges of families, specially those with more than one school-going child.
“Projects are burdening parents especially working parents and those with more than one child,” she said.
Her children, in second and fourth grades, were asked to build robots as part of their school work.
“Children need direct parent supervision while making projects and I personally don’t have time for that, so I made the two small robots myself to save time,” she said.
Not all projects can be made using material that is available at home and parents would then need to buy these from stationery stores, said one mother.
“In my case, my son in grade 5, was asked to make a vase,” said Dali Abdulaleem, 36, from Egypt.
She used a plastic water bottle and didn’t have to buy any material.
“But I know mothers who had to buy objects to use in making projects.”
Project-based learning can be valuable
Project-based learning can help drive up pupil engagement and forge a deeper understanding of subjects, said Yaqoob Al Hammadi, an academic and vocational adviser at Sultan bin Saqer School in Sharjah.
But she said such tasks would be more successful if done in groups as part of the school day.
"Project-based learning allows children to explore, gain knowledge and skills, it also boosts their communication with the school community including classmates and teachers while also teaching them to find solutions to challenges they may face while researching the topic of the project they have been assigned to make," he said.
"It also enhances pupils’ understanding of the subject whether it be science or math or any other.
“No matter how small, a project requires research and resources and these need the supervision of a teacher not a parent.”
He said to encourage innovation, schools must provide the means for it.
“Group project-based learning is very important. It inspires children, makes recycling part of their lives, and doesn’t burden parents.”
Science teacher Huda Mitwali, from Egypt, agreed that assigning projects could sometimes be a drain on the finances of parents.
She said the volume of project-based work varies from school to school but they are often assigned to pupils once a year in each subject they study.
“Some teachers don’t take into consideration how individual projects take time and money of not only pupils but parents. They need to rethink this and adapt group work” she said.