Junior attends a prestigious private nursery and primary school in Lagos, which also operates a crèche for pre-school age kids. Having graduated from the crèche and the nursery classes, he is now in primary one. Normal school time is between 8.00 am and 2.00 pm, and after that, Junior and his mates will go in for extra lessons – another intensive learning session that will last till 5.00 pm. Around 6.00 pm, having been dropped at home by the school bus minutes earlier, a home tutor, or private lesson teacher, will attend to him, helping him get through his homework. By 7.00 pm, when he is to have dinner, Junior is already tired. He will sleep off shortly after eating. The boy hardly has any time to play, and he is just six years old.
The home tutor also comes calling on Saturdays.
Junior’s ‘travails’ mirror the experience of most kids these days.
Many parents are seemingly desperate to turn their children into geniuses, and to them, the best way to achieve this is to engage the kids in full-time learning.
But is this proper? Is it possible that kids are getting more than the required amount of learning, and if so, how healthy could this be?
A study published in the American Journal of Family Therapy, found that students in the early elementary school years are getting significantly more homework than is recommended by education leaders, in some cases, nearly three times as much homework as is recommended.
The standard, endorsed by the National Education Association and the National Parent-Teacher Association, is the so-called “10-minute rule” -10 minutes per grade level per night. That translates into 10 minutes of homework in the first grade, 20 minutes in the second grade, all the way up to 120 minutes for senior year of high school.
The NEA and the National PTA do not endorse homework for kindergarten.
Many Nigerian beginner schools, whose curricula mirror those of American and British schools, are also caught up in this situation as parents seek to build up their kids’ intellectual capacities.
In addition to their normal daily classes, many schools now organise extra lessons for their pupils.
Educationist faults extra lessons after school hours
An education consultant, Mr Oluwashina Akintolure, frowned on the development.
“If the same school engages its pupils in extra classes after normal school hours, it means that the school has collected money and did nothing. The question is what has the teachers been doing since morning. The answer is nothing,” he said while speaking with our correspondent.
Akintolure observed that the number of days, and duration, of home lessons should be drastically reduced.
He said, “If you want a child to have lessons at home it should not be more than two, three times a month, and it should not exceed more than one hour. The home lesson is just to check what the child has done in school.”
The education consultant further observed that many parents engage their kids in marathon extra lessons just because they (parents) are away at work and want their children to be occupied in their absence.
“Most parents these days, due to the nature of their job, want to have their children engaged in after school lessons because they will not be at home and therefore want them to be engaged.
“There is nothing wrong with engaging the kids in extra lessons but when it becomes too much, it is wrong. When it gets to be too much, it becomes a problem,” he said.
Children not allowed to grow according to their age are not well-grounded – Psychologist
Also speaking on the matter, a psychologist, Prof Oni Fagboungbe, noted that some parents unwittingly harm their children by pushing them too hard.
Speaking with our correspondent, he said, “God created human beings with certain capacities for each stage of life. These days, you will find out that we are recording more and more of unassimilated youths. They are not really assimilating because of over-use. We know that work overload is the greatest source of work stress.
“Now when you look at these kids, they go to school, come back with assignment, then the lesson teacher will come, the lesson teacher will give them assignment, the school teacher will also give them assignment – they are overloaded. Their age at that time cannot cope with all that load. It gets too much.
“Human beings grow in phases, life itself is filled up with phases and these are developmental stages and at certain stages, there are certain behaviours which your physiology and brain allows you to fulfil. But when you are being taken beyond your capacity, it could result in children not assimilating, not having a solid background. So it is not for the best.
“Most times you see parents who want their 15-year-old child to be already preparing to graduate from the university.
“In the University of Lagos where I teach, we follow the regulation and there are certain ages that cannot secure admission irrespective of how well they performed in the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination. If you are not 17, you cannot gain admission but so many of the parents will go to court to swear affidavit inflating the age of their children. When we ask why such a young child does not have a birth certificate they give all sorts of excuses.
“And when such boys or girls get into the university they cannot cope – they will be experiencing problems here and there and eventually they will become vulnerable to all these bad boys. They will tell him if you join our group, you will have no problem in this university and the child that does not have a solid foundation will join them. It is usually not the best,” he said.
Parents should be patient with their kids
Fagboungbe observed that parents need to be ‘patient’.
“Parents should be patient enough to allow the child’s development to match the requirements of their age so that the child can really cope with life,” he said
According to him, while parents should be concerned about their children’s grades, they should also bear in mind that ‘learning’ has an effect on their kids’ health and overall social behaviour. He added that the hours logged in class, and the hours logged on schoolwork could lead to students feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated. Navigating the line between developing learning skills and feeling frustrated can be tricky, he said.
According to the reports, lessons and homework are necessary – they are very important in the child’s success inside and outside of the classroom, but too much of such can actually have the opposite effect.
Expert are of the view that students who spend too much time on lessons and homework are not always able to meet other needs, like being physically and socially active. Ultimately, the amount of lessons and homework a student has can impact a lot more than their grades.
Therefore parents should understand that their kids are under pressure. High standards, fast-changing life, complicated relationships with schoolmates and parents make them feel anxious and depressed. If a child wants to succeed at school, he must show excellent results, complete challenging projects, lead active social life and learn a body of information. Homework is one of the most difficult assignments students have to complete at the elementary school or college. What if it is too complicated to them?
Research findings suggest that getting too much lessons and homework leads to a wrong attitude to education and could, ultimately, lower overall grade of a student. If he spends hours to complete homework, he won’t have a mind to learn additional materials. There are also studies that indicate that extra homework load reduces the ability to memorise other topics essential to a future career or personal life.
Also, children who have too much lessons and homework don’t have time to interact with schoolmates and friends. It is hard to communicate with other people and learn how to solve some issues that may occur if you don’t have enough experience.
The findings also suggest that spending spare time with complex tasks leads to an increased level of stress and other psychological issues. It will translate to students sleeping less and having lower cognitive abilities at class.
If teachers offer too much lessons and homework, children become overloaded. They don’t have the opportunity to develop their skills, solve issues, create interesting projects and do more.
According to oxfordlearning.com, too much homework can also result in less active learning – a type of learning that occurs in context and encourages participation.
It further said that active learning promotes the analysis and application of class content in real world settings and that homework does not always provide these opportunities, leading to boredom and a lack of problem-solving skills.
Parents can make a difference by being an active part of children’s homework routine. As parents, you can help your child have a stress-free homework experience. Sticking to a clear and organised homework routine helps children develop better homework habits as they get older. This routine also comes in handy when homework becomes more difficult as they go higher in learning.
Sources: oxfordlearning.com, cnn.com, punchng.com