I still remember the painful days when my son was a primary school boy. We took him to Australia while he was studying in Grade 4. I had great expectations from Australia particularly in relation to my child’s education. As a parent I wanted him to learn more. A problem began as soon as he started to go to school. With my experience of Bishrut’s schooling in Nepal I expected him to receive a substantial amount of homework. To my great disappointment he did not bring anything home from school and I did not know what he was learning there. I began to worry thinking that he would forget whatever he had learned in Nepal soon. I shared my fear with other Asian parents and they were also feeling the same.
I embarked to learn about Australian education system and my fear gradually turned into hope as I realised homework alone does not guarantee a student’s successful learning. With time I got an opportunity to engage deeply in the Australian primary language and literacy education system because I had decided to conduct my doctoral research in the same area.
Now I can relate my Australian story to typical Nepali parents who have brought their children to my school. In fact these children are only about to commence their schooling. The poor three year olds are struggling to cope with the entirely new environment of a school after being taken care by their parents in a comfortable home setting for a number of years. The school family is doing its best to help these little ones adjust to the different circumstances of school.
In contrast to children’s challenges parents have their own issue of homework. It has hardly been a week they have sent their children to school and they have already started complaining that they want the children to bring home homework. What they expect is their children must know Nepali and English alphabet and numbers as soon as they enter the school and do a lot of homework. Thank God I was not that demanding in Bishrut’s early years of schooling. At that point in time I wanted him to have less pressure and more pleasant experience from school.
I wonder why Asian parents are so obsessive about homework. They do not believe that their children are learning until and unless they see them reading schoolbooks and doing homework. This may be true for older children but the younger ones need a lot of other pre-reading and pre-writing activities before moving on to real reading and writing tasks.
I think the parents should also be given a couple of orientation programs when they come to school to admit their children. It is said that you like your children to follow the same path that you know; and the parents have come this far by reciting the alphabet and numbers during the early days of their schooling. Therefore, the first thing they want for their children is also the same. This vicious cycle must be broken and we must make parents realise that rote learning and mechanical homework doing are outdated techniques of teaching. Furthermore, they must be patient with their young children and give them enough time to adjust to school and start learning naturally and automatically.