Goodbye, Excuses

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Poland enacted a ban against homework this month that has left children rejoicing but some teachers and parents are concerned, the Associated Press reported.

Under the decree, teachers are no longer to give required homework to kids in the first to third grades. In grades four to eight, homework is now optional.

Primary school students now have “an excess of things to learn, to memorize, also at home, at the expense of free time, at the expense of extra-curricular activities, at the expense of meeting friends,” said Education Minister Barbara Nowacka, according to Notes from Poland, a local news outlet.

The cutting of homework comes amid concerns about Poland’s “antiquated” educational system, with critics saying it puts too much emphasis on rote learning and homework, and not enough on critical thinking and creativity.

At the same time, children say they are overloaded. Last year, a 14-year-old Polish boy at a campaign rally said children “had no time to rest,” that children’s rights were being violated with so much homework on weekends, and so many tests on Mondays. As a result, it became a campaign promise of now Prime Minister Donald Tusk to do something about it.

Sławomir Broniarz, the head of the Polish Teachers’ Union, however, told the AP that while he recognized the need to ease the burden on students, the new homework rules are another case of change imposed from above without adequate consultation with educators. Parents, meanwhile, wondered if it would adversely impact learning.

Debates over the proper amount of homework are common around the globe, wrote the AP. While some studies have shown little benefit to homework for young learners, other experts say it can help them learn how to develop study habits and academic concepts.

Regardless, kids like 11-year-old fifth grader, Ola Kozak, of Warsaw, are happy to be free of homework.

“Most people in my class in the morning would copy the work off someone who had done the homework or would copy it from the Internet … so it didn’t make sense,” she said.

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