An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin has officially declared Monday 12th April as the first official “No Homework Day” for every child in Ireland. In his most pressing interview to date, when questioned by 9 year old Dean Aherne about the abolition of homework, Micheál Martin stated exclusively that for the first time ever, “On April 12th there’ll be no homework, and that’s for the whole country”, which was met by cheers from the Starcamp kids. Teachers, principals, parents – take note!
This brings to the fore the debate about whether or not it’s time to say goodbye to homework as we know it. Covid-19 has brought about a lot of change in society and Starcamp owner, Aideen O Grady, who has been working with children and running camps and classes nationwide for 15 years as well as being a Mother of 4, strongly believes it’s time to progress from the unchanged, archaic style homework that goes unquestioned and put children’s mental health first by having more free time to encourage other equally important life skills and hobbies.
Finland’s education system is being perceived as the best in the world. Coincidently, they also give less homework that any other country. They are leading the way because of common-sense practices and a holistic teaching environment that strives for equity over excellence. Students start school when they are seven years old and get little to no homework throughout their school years, with the education system preferring to include the academic work as part of the school day and allowing home time to be free and enjoyed. This time instead allows children to engage in their passions, to try new hobbies, socialize freely with other children, fall down, get up, scrape knees, play music, sport, communicate more with the outside world and so much more. They see the benefits of free reign in the developing childhood years to not be chained to compulsory education. It’s simply just a way to let a kid be a kid.
From a psychological standpoint, it has endless pros. Although it may anecdotal, many students really feel like they’re stuck in a prison. Finland alleviates this forced ideal and instead opts to prepare its children for the real world. Finnish students are getting everything they need to get done in school without the added pressures that come with excelling at a subject and coming home to face more book time from as young as 4 or 5 in Ireland. Once they get home, they no longer need to worry about further study and tests, but instead are able to focus on the true task at hand – learning and growing as a human being.
There will be more diversity in these children once they become adults if they have more time to find out who they really are and what they truly love. They won’t be subjected to unnecessary pressure and stress from such a young age, something that should not be in their little lives and is a hard habit to drop once developed.
This is an ideal time to redefine our system and abolish homework as we know it. There are other ways for us to achieve the same results and for parents to be more involved holistically in their children’s education and upbringing. It just should not take up the majority of our children’s free time. Children’s mental health needs to be at the fore right now, not tomorrow. We need to act. Many teachers have spoken about the newfound anxieties that are showing themselves in classrooms from a very young age. Sadly for our children this is only going one way.