teaching and students

Rob Schaap rws at comserver.canberra.edu.au
Sat Feb 13 21:33:05 PST 1999

G'day all,

My suspicions that primary school kids work very hard (far harder than I was asked to in the mid-sixties) are vindicated in today's *The Australian* (see at bottom).

Why is this?

Mebbe because parents are so drenched with all this talk of competition and the rise of the 'knowledge worker' (most of whom will probably find what knowledge they have to be way more than will either be needed or paid for) that they simply demand maximum suffering for their little 'uns?

Mebbe it's because the teacher-per-student or contact-hours-per-year ain't what they were under the welfare state - so ever more yakka is being externalised to parent and weary child?

Mebbe it's because teaching in a class situation is a lot harder than it was for our teachers. 'Bad boys' in my day did stuff like pinch Rosemary Baker's lunchbox, or pass 'rude' pictures from *National Geographic* under the desk. Maybe the institutional grip that confined our assaults on authority no longer has that prehensile (pre-neoliberal stratification) legitimacy. Mebbe only kids with educated and unexhausted parents can hope to learn while they go through their childhoods?

Mebbe part of the problem with the young people we meet at uni is that they are much less likely to have had a rewarding learning experience? That and the fact that here we have 'democratised' tertiary education - meaning not so much that anybody can go (they can't - our so-called social democrats made sure of that by reintroducing fees - industry didn't like the idea of having to share the cost of preparing tomorrow's 'factors of production'), but that everybody must - no matter what career (if I may employ an old-fashioned term) they have in mind.

Mebbe the world is now so royally stuffed that even middle-class infants are being ground into the mire.

I dunno.

Cheers, Rob.

Homework drives kids to despair



CHILDREN as young as five have telephoned a counselling service for help with the stress of school and homework.

Some call in tears saying they have no time for play or activities outside school.

Nearly 1500 Queensland children phoned the Kids Helpline last year. The service's research and publications manager Wendy Reid said one in 20 calls was from a child aged from five to nine. Nearly half were 10 to 14.

She said more than 20 per cent were stressed because of their school workload or study pressures.

Kids Helpline counsel lor "Libby" said children often called in tears.

"It's always a challenging time at the beginning of the school year with kids trying to get back into the routine," Libby said. "Already (this year) there's been people saying: there's so much to do and we've just started and I'm swamped.

"They feel like they have little quality out- of-school time. They're generally just overwhelmed and increasingly frustrated by that. They're indicating through their comments that they wish life was simpler."

Some parents have reported that their 10-year-old children have been given three hours homework a night, and eight-year-olds, between one and two hours.

The Education Department has no set guidelines on how much homework students should do each night, but leaves it up to individual school to set their own policy.

Queensland University of Technology education lecturer Tania Aspland said three hours homework a night for primary school children was excessive.

She said that could be expected of high school students, more for senior students, but primary school children especially needed time for play and sporting activities.

She said the Kids Helpline data was worrying.

"If that many children are ringing in with those sorts of complaints, they could have too much homework, but it could be they're not managing their time efficiently.

"(But) it says to me that there is far too much homework being set."

Ms Aspland said some parents placed too much pressure on their children to perform.

She said it was also true that private schools often demanded more homework than state schools, but because parents expected it.

She said children in Years 1-4 should be doing up to 30 minutes, Years 5-7, up to an hour and high school students three hours or more a night.

The Kids Helpline is funded by the Boystown and Art Union Lottery and also receives financial support from the Federal Government and Kellogg Pty Ltd.

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