Devil finds homework for kids' hands

Updated: 2014-08-23 07:57

By Yang Ziman(China Daily)

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With the new school session approaching, students who have not completed (and perhaps even not touched) their homework have found an easy solution to their problem: using the Internet to get their homework done for a certain price. "Two yuan ($0.33) per page, 10 yuan for one composition, 30 yuan for a hand-drawn newspaper..." The prices seem affordable and tempting to students fretting over unfinished homework.

Chinese students are punished all the time for not doing things that they are least interested in. A look at the standard summer holiday homework would reveal that a lot of it is dull and redundant. For example, some require students to translate ancient Chinese passages into modern verse while others ask them to give their afterthoughts about a number of classic novels.

Teachers (and parents) have turned summer holidays, which should be a time of joy, into a burden for children by overloading them with assignments. If the examination-oriented system is a must because of the limited educational resources and the huge population, the summer vacation is a desperately needed break from studies for students to pursue their hobbies and broaden their horizon. If a summer vacation is simply an extension of the drudgery students are subjected to in schools, why call the two months a "holiday"?

A friend in the United States recently told me that he went to help out on his grandfather's farm during the summer break, where he learned how to log and chip wood, herd cows and ride horses. More importantly, he developed a stronger bond with his grandfather by spending some quality time and doing some worthwhile things with him. I envy him for that, because I have spent most of my school summer vacations doing homework against my will. Such was my abhorrence for homework that once two of my cousins had to help me finish it.

I don't know what good school homework has done for me, for the only thing I remember is that it was the fear of teachers that made me do it. The need is to free homework from the fear of teachers and to make it part of a broader learning process.

Holiday homework should not be confined to answering a number of questions, writing a number compositions or reading a number of books. Homework should be an exercise in the learning and use of skills to open the mind to a world of possibilities.

Students, for instance, could be asked to write reports on things they find interesting, and given the freedom to write them individually or, if they choose to, in groups. Creativity flows out of freedom of choice. Or, high school students could be asked to view music from the perspective of mathematics, and vice-versa, and record their experiences. Innovative thinking is not possible if one doesn't have enough time to think, right?

Hopefully, there will come a time when the sword of Damocles will not hang over the heads of students who have not finished their homework - and students will be desperate to return to school to tell classmates about the skills they have learned, the new places they have explored and the good work they have done during the summer vacation.

The author is a writer with China Daily.

Devil finds homework for kids' hands

(China Daily 08/23/2014 page5)