Thursday, 3 November 2016

Education, gender and genies.

When I started teaching in the 1970s in a large comprehensive, one of my tasks as a form tutor was to coordinate the homework timetable for my class. If I remember rightly, the pupils were to be set three subjects per night, each subject having about half an hour's work. Of course, the amount of time taken varied from one child to another, but you couldn't really legislate for some people working faster than others. Five lots of three half-hour homework assignments would amount to 7.5 hours of homework per week.

Now I read that parents in Spain are being urged to go on a weekend homework strike this month in protest against the “unacceptable” amount of after-school tasks their children are given. Apparently Spanish fifteen year-olds have 6.5 hours of homework each week, while other OECD countries average 4.9 hours. So presumably some have more and some less. 6.5 hours per week for 15 year olds does not sound escessive to me. A similar amount for 8 year olds would be excessive. All they need is a bit of practice in reading, a task parents should be happy to share. But teenagers should get used to reinforncing their learning by doing stuff at home as well.

Are we in danger of mollycoddling them? Or am I just a stuffy old retired teacher?

And now, in the Guardian today, somebody called Tom Bennett is offering a gold star to parents who take a stand against homework. Here's a link.

He argues that homework eats into "family time" but surely, up to a certain age at least, sitting down with your children to talk about their homework and make sure it gets done is a valuable way of spending time with them. And for the fifteen and above year olds, well, a good conversation over the family meal should fit the bill, before they go off and do their teenage thing on their own or with their mates.

While I'm on my education rant, here's something else. On our wanderings around Figueira we pass a very nice-looking nursery school. Now I have no idea, of course, about what goes on inside as regards gender stereotyping but I notice that all the children wear those rather cute smocks: the tiny boys wear blue ones and the tiny girls wear pink ones. No comment!

There is another one where all the children wear yellow smocks, regardless of gender!

Since I commented on the wonderful weather yesterday, probably as a direct result of my comment, yesterday evening we had a short burst of quite torrential rain. Out of the blue, as it were! Today is breezy and a bit cloudy but still very warm when the sun breaks through, which it does quite often.

A headline in today's newspaper says that the High Court has ruled that Brexit must be approved by Parliament before it can be implemented. What happens if Parliament votes against it? Will we have to tell all the other EU countries that we are not leaving after all? Would they accept that? Would that put everything right so that we could go back to trying to reform the EU and make it into a much better organisation?

Somehow I doubt that the genie can be put back into the bottle so easily!

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