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No more homework for kids at DODEA elementary school in Bahrain

Heather Heffernan, a 5th grade teacher at the Bahrain School, goes over classwork with a student on Sept. 5, 2019. The Bahrain School has a new policy of assigning no homework other than reading for grades K-5, falling in line with a Bahrain Ministry of Education decision announced last year.

JOSHUA KARSTEN/STARS AND STRIPES

By JOSHUA KARSTEN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 5, 2019

MANAMA, Bahrain – Children at the Department of Defense Education Activity’s Bahrain School no longer have to do homework — unless it’s reading, school staff and parents have said.

Parents of kids at the DODEA elementary school were told at the start of the new school year that students will no longer be assigned traditional homework but should read at home for at least 20-30 minutes a day.

The change brings the school in line with a 2018 Bahrain Education Ministry decision that homework was to be “replaced by daily hands-on exercises implemented by students under teachers’ supervision inside the classroom before the end of each lesson.”

“This innovative approach is compatible with the ministry’s efforts to develop academic curricula to suit the requirements of the 21st century,” the ministry said in a statement released in December.

But a senior official at DODEA insisted the decision to do away with homework was taken independently of any Bahraini mandates.

“Our staff met (in June) to discuss our school’s current homework practices across all classrooms,” elementary school principal Penelope Miller-Smith said.

They “read and discussed several journal articles regarding the purpose of homework and worked collaboratively to develop a … schoolwide practice that would be consistent across grades and classrooms,” Miller-Smith said.

A member of the school staff, however, said the Bahrain education ministry’s homework policy was discussed at the meeting in June. A number of Bahraini nationals are enrolled at the school.

The DODEA school opted for a slightly modified version of the Bahraini policy to include a home reading obligation and interactive reading journal, officials said. The new policy also specifies that students in fourth and fifth grade can be sent home with “any unfinished classwork as determined by the teacher.”

Most parents were delighted with the new rule, although some have asked for resources for their kids to work on at home – homework, in other words.

“I want my kids to love learning and be lifelong learners, and working through a packet of worksheets in the evening after a long day of school and after-school activities is not going to foster that,” said Theresa Tamash, whose kindergartner and fourth grader attend the school. “I support the new policy 100%.”

But, she added, she knew of parents who have asked teachers to direct them to educational websites or send home worksheets, to prevent their kids from falling behind their peers in schools that still require homework.

Lucia Martinez said she thought it would have been better to reduce the amount of homework instead of doing away with it altogether.

Having a little homework helps her see her second and fifth graders’ strengths and weaknesses better than if she only received reports from school, Martinez said.

Two children, whose parents asked that their last names not be used, were overwhelmingly in favor of having no homework.

Zach, 10, said he now has more time for activities like Boy Scouts, while first-grader Ofelia said she liked the new rule “because homework is boring.”

The downside of the new policy for Ofelia, though, was the requirement that she should read for at least 20 minutes a day. That’s just like homework, she said.

“You still need to read in homework,” she said. “My homework last year … I could get done in less than 20 minutes. Twenty minutes of reading takes more time.”

karsten.joshua@stripes.com
Twitter: @joshua_karsten
 

The DODEA's Bahrain School has a new policy of assigning no homework other than reading for grades K-5, falling in line with a Bahrain Ministry of Education decision announced last year.
JOSHUA KARSTEN/STARS AND STRIPES

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