Why FCPE are wrong about homework

The Guardian wrote, at 26th of March, an article about French parents and teachers who boycott their pupils homework for two weeks based on the following reason: «If the child hasn’t succeeded in doing the exercise at school, I don’t see how they’re going to succeed at home» (President of the main French parents’ association, FCPE, Jean-Jacques Hazan).

I might be on thin ice here, and I might even get the entire FCPE and all the French teachers yelling at my door – but I got some news for you Mr. Hazan: There is something wrong with your school system. If the school gives your child homework in completing an exercise the child didn’t manage at school, there should be no reason why your child should complete the exercise at home.

The article also claims that the parents are doing the homework. I’m sorry if I offend you Mr. Hazan, but if the parents are doing the homework, perhaps they should go and get some further education – I mean, if they like studying so much? Here in Norway we are obligated as teachers to educate academicly our children, but we also have an obligation to raise the children side by side with their parents. If we are to raise their children, don’t you think they should help out with basic mathematics, with basic language and with other basic homework? I mean, it’s not like the pupils come to school each morning and whenever the bell rings for a break it turns out to total anarchy because the adults at work aren’t there. We DO step up and teach them right and wrong, how to treat other people, what respect and tolerance is, we DO step up and raise the children side by side with their parents! Sometimes we even have to go further and help pupils wash their hands after a visit to the toilet or to not pick their nose and eat what they find – skills they should have learned AT HOME. So, since we have to use our time to both educate and to raise, we do expect parent groups to help out a little bit with reading, with memorizing, with solving basic math problems – with studying in general. Should the parents not be able to do so, based on either time or for example own dyslexia, dyscalculia or other learning disabilities, there should be a low threshold to come forward with these problems to the teacher in concern.

You claim there is no effect from doing homework – but do you have any proof of this claim? And is it quantitative or qualitative? Based on your school only? Based on the entire French school system? I am no fan of homework if the homework has no goal towards what is being taught at school, however given the right assignment and the proper tutoring before the child leaves the school, I see no problem in why you, Mr. Hazan, and the rest of the parents in FCPE, cannot help your children out with their homework (except the reasons given above, of course).

I don’t know anything about the French curriculum in any subject, nor do I carry any knowledge of the French school system. But something must be very, very wrong if your teachers expect you, as a parent, to teach your child something they didn’t understand at school or didn’t manage to complete. I mean, as long as you have a job and a profession beyond teaching and as long as that teaching job does not include teaching your child at home, this isn’t your job to do.

As you see, of this graph, France is over Norway when it comes to pupils’ results. But you also might notice the difference in salaries. Perhaps your teachers are so poorly payed they can’t be bothered teaching those who struggle or those who don’t know time management yet. Perhaps your school system is so concerned about results that nothing else matters – all the other subjects in your curriculum is low priority. I don’t know, I am just guessing. But I am pretty sure there is something very wrong with something.

Your children should be able to complete their homework without your help, if they payed attention at school. If they aren’t, they either didn’t pay attention or your school needs evaluation. Perhaps even Norwegian schools, I am not trying to paint a glorious picture of the Norwegian schools either – homework should be to repeat what you just learned at school or to test something out before it’s tutored at school – anything else is useless. And this I mean regardless of countries.

If children do homework based on this definition, they will have more knowledge of the subject before a test, they won’t have to study hard and in lack of time when there is a test coming, they will actually get through the curriculum, they would learn studying skills which they need for high school, college and universities, they will learn the importance of these studying skills, they will be better at writing, reading and calculating, and they will learn to take responsibility for their own education. If you don’t see that, Mr. Hazan, perhaps you and the rest of the parents at FCPE should change to different glasses.