Schoolchildren hoping for homework to be abolished in the UAE, as it will be in Bahrain next year, will be disappointed to learn that it is here to stay.
Principals in the UAE said learning at home is important and adds value to teaching at school, as long as it does not put a great load on children or take away too much playtime – particularly for younger children.
Experts said that doing away with homework would prove near impossible in the UAE, where there is a wide array of international curriculum schools, each requiring different teaching styles and assessments.
This week, Bahrain's education minister said that its public schools would not assign homework to pupils from next year. Dr Majid Al Nuaimi said a new curriculum would ensure work is completed in school with review classes to check children retain the information being taught.
But some private schools in Dubai have already dabbled with a no-homework policy, while others ensure that any learning at home is an extension of the lessons taught in the classroom, rather than new assignments.
Brendon Fulton, principal of Dubai British School, said it was not a good idea to unilaterally ban homework in schools.
“Schools and principals have a responsibility to ensure that homework is meaningful and not overly onerous for pupils and families. School leaders should put polices in place that protect families from homework that becomes a major burden and puts pressure on their downtime,” he said.
“We have a very strict philosophy that home learning should not constitute any new learning, but should be an opportunity to reinforce learning that takes place in school.”
As part of this system, when pupils learn about mass and measurement at school, they also understand how measurements are taken when baking or cooking at home.
“Homework can be fun and meaningful. But when pupils spend a lot of time at home having to tick boxes for homework, and there is no clear and obvious link to the learning they are doing in school, then it is frustrating for parents,” Mr Fulton said.
Apart from public schools in the UAE, there are British curriculum, Indian, International Baccalaureate, American, Canadian, French and Filipino private schools.
Removing homework would not work in Indian curriculum schools that require substantial work at home, particularly for senior pupils.
Sheela Menon, principal of Dubai's Ambassador School, said a blanket homework ban would not work in the UAE because of the many curriculums.
“From the viewpoint of Indian curriculum schools, you cannot completely do away with homework. But it should be given at a moderate level. Pupils, especially at the junior level, should enjoy doing it as it should be part of extended learning,” she said.
"But as you go to senior classes per the Indian curriculum, the content increases and there needs to be more extended learning practice at home, whether you call it homework or self-study. Still, students should not be crammed with homework so they are not able to enjoy the evening or their playtime. Homework should be given in moderation."
The Dunecrest American School in Dubai has a limited homework policy that allows pupils to finish work at home that is started in the classroom.
Bill Delbrugge, the school director, said:
“Children need to understand that not all projects can be finished within a 15-minute class period. It’s good for them to do projects after school because some of it is group work where they work with their fellow pupils.
“We are just trying to prepare them for college life and the careers they will enter because that is exactly what it will be like in the world of work,” he said.