Let’s Talk About It
February 25, 2014
By Helen Wang
Homework: What does Finland do that we don’t?
Students, how many times in the past week have you complained about your workload? What if I told you that this workload might be detrimental?
This is not the opinion of a mere high school senior frustrated by the amount of homework assigned by teachers. In fact, recent studies show the United States is consistently outscored in terms of academic ability by countries such as Finland, with radical differences in their educational systems, including — you guessed it — significantly less homework.
So, how are their students so successful? There are many explanations, one of which is that they have more free time. I know I speak for many when I say that having 30 minutes of homework a day, rather than three hours, would make me feel less stressed. Instead of drowning in pointless papers, we would be able to do more things that we truly cared about.
Another reason for high levels of academic achievement in Finland is a love of reading instilled and maintained at a very young age. When was the last time you read for fun? Do you even like reading anymore?
American teenagers are reading less and less, while in Finland, toddlers are walking around carrying books bigger than they are. Children are often taught to read and write almost immediately after learning to speak; parents of newborns receive a government-paid gift pack that includes a picture book.
In addition, Finnish schools don’t have “gifted” programs that make one group of students feel superior and another feel dejected. Finnish teachers concentrate on weaker students rather than pushing gifted students ahead of everyone else — this way, brighter students can help those struggling with new concepts, so every student can finish his or her work and advance at the same pace.
Thus, active teachers, combined with a high standard of living, little socioeconomic inequality and free college result in most Finnish kids enjoying a relatively stress-free childhood, in contrast to American children pushed to learn by parents overeager for Ivy League schools.
I’m not saying the school district should suddenly impose a homework ban, but we could learn a lot from the Finns. Like any situation, change won’t happen overnight, and we can’t change most of the circumstances I listed above, but teachers, next time, please think about whether assignments are necessary before giving them … for our benefit, and yours.