A Gawk off the Rock: Why Parents in Spain Have Launched a Homework Strike

If teachers can’t plant something into our kids’ heads between 9-3, are we trying to teach kids too much stuff? Are curriculums unreasonable now? What’s the deal with homework – if adults don’t take work home with them, why do their kids? Parents in Spain are sick of it this month, and thousands of them have instigated a “homework strike.”

It might sound weird to some people who grew up hearing “you can’t do X until your homework is done!” but Spanish parents feel there’s more to life,  and more to learn, than school-assigned studies.

Every hour a kid spends on homework is an hour away from family time, or an hour away from that kid finding out who they are, and what they’re naturally drawn to, be it hockey, guitar, or … a new crush. Arguably, that’s just as important as math, history, and grammar – none of which are overly satisfying paths to self-discovery.

On November 4th, students at all 12,000 schools in Spain were told by parents not to do their homework this month, in hopes that a homework strike will strike a balance between school life and real life, or reasonable versus unreasonable school workloads.

The Spanish Alliance of Parents’ Associations (CEAPA) called for the strike, because Spain was ranked #11 on a comprehensive study  of the world’s heaviest homework loads for students worldwide. (Shanghai, Russia, and Singapore were ranked #1-3).

For Spain, that meant an average of 6.5 hours of homework a week, which is more than an hour per weeknight. And for what? The same study determined that a higher school workload does not clearly translate into better academic performance for Spanish students.

In fact, overworked Spanish students on average score lower than other European countries in math and science. Read into that as you may, but the takeaway fact is that more homework isn’t making these kids “smarter.”

Finland is famous for some of the best grade-school academic performance in the world, yet they have less homework, and, longer summer breaks than most.  Finland placed 12th in math in a study where the UK sat at 26, despite the fact kids in the UK have a school year that ends mid-July!

South Korea is also statistically proven to have exceptional, well-above average student grades, yet their time spent on homework is less than half of what Spanish students are assigned.

It is theorized that Finland’s fine track record comes down to trust. Trust from parents and school-runners that their schools and teachers are doing a good enough job educating their kids in the school day. Governments and parents don’t interfere with policies and queries about where kids are on some arbitrary scale of “normal performance.”

The Spanish homework strike has come at the end of a year’s worth of headlines like a Texan teacher taking flak for why she doesn’t assign homework (to not interfere with family time), and a high school in Britain that banned homework so students could learn about things of interest to them, personally and independently, in their own time.

Something to think about anyway.

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