Finding the right balance for homework

(This article by local blogger Mr Ryan Tay first appeared here on Domain of Singapore Tutoring Experts on 28 January 2013.)

The issue on excessive homework has been widely debated in Singapore.

In the FY2012 Committee of Supply Debate, Education Minister, Heng Swee Keat mentioned that schools have been tracking their students’ homework load and are working towards finding the right balance.

In order to address this issue, we must first understand the purpose of homework.

The “parents in education” website created by MOE states the following:

“Homework reinforces your child’s learning, helps him/her cultivate good study habits, and informs the teachers’ on his/her progress so that timely feedback and support can be given.

Effective use of homework can help your child to:

  • Deepen his/her understanding of lessons taught;

  • Allow him/her to regularly practise, and apply skills and concepts learnt in class;and

  • Have greater ownership and responsibility for independent learning.”

The above-mentioned points translate to the outcome of hoping to achieve better grades.

What is the right balance that allows homework to serve its purpose?

The right balance varies from an individual student’s understanding of the subjects to their own or parents’ expectations or even the school’s expectations. The education climate and expectations are ever-changing. The right balance today might be the wrong balance in the following months.

The right balance should be based on each student’s understanding of the subject and what the student expects to achieve.

So having said that, how would one go about finding the right balance?

One possible way of measuring the level of understanding would be using test results.

A student’s expected result should be conveyed to the teacher at the start of the year. Changes to the expectation should be registered along the school term as well.

The student would then be given a choice on ‘right’ amount of homework if he/she meets the expected test results.

Can you give me an example?

Supposedly, a student’s expectation is to achieve 80 marks for a particular subject.

The student should be given a choice on the amount homework to do for that same subject, unless he/she fails to score 80 and above, for any of his/her test on the subject.

Possible flaws to this approach.

One might argue that such a proposal actually encourages students to set lower targets so as to avoid doing homework.

There will also be questions on a student’s maturity to make such a decision.

Moreover, meeting the test results for the previous chapters of the subject doesn’t necessarily mean the same level of understanding for other chapters.

An alternative point of view.

On the other hand, mandating a fixed amount of homework doesn’t guarantee that a student will fare better in his/her studies. Even studies on the effectiveness of homework have not been able to conclude that doing homework translates to better grades.

Ultimately, isn’t life about choices?

Ryan Tay

About Ryan

Ryan blogs under the moniker RedCherry about his life, reflections and random stuff which interest him.

He enjoys blogging for 2 main reasons:

1) To share his journey in life and reflections with people from all around the world.

2) To entertain others in his posts.

For more of his posts, please visit his blog at:


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