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Less work, more play: Quebec elementary school bans homework for the year

By: Benjamin Shingler, The Canadian Press

 | Sep 01, 2014 - 5:54 PM |
tudents work on homework during class at Milesville School on Wednesday, May 2, 2012, in Haakon County, S.D. An elementary school in Quebec's Saguenay region has decided to ban homework in all classes from Grade 1 to Grade 6. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Kristina Barker/Journal staff)

tudents work on homework during class at Milesville School on Wednesday, May 2, 2012, in Haakon County, S.D. An elementary school in Quebec's Saguenay region has decided to ban homework in all classes from Grade 1 to Grade 6. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Kristina Barker/Journal staff)

MONTREAL - Students at a Quebec elementary school may be some of the happiest in the country as they prepare for another year in the classroom.

College de Saint-Ambroise, a school of 339 students in the province's Saguenay region, has introduced a near-complete ban on homework.

Every class from Grade 1 to 6 will take part in the one-year pilot project.

Marie-Eve Desrosiers, a spokeswoman with the Jonquiere School Board, said the goal is to ease pressure on parents and even improve student performance.

She explained that teachers will still be allowed to assign studying and reading work, but there won't be, for example, "four pages of math problems."

"It's based on research that homework time is becoming more and more difficult," Desrosiers said in an interview.

"Often children are away at daycare from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. at night, and a lot of families are finding it increasingly difficult, and so we've decided to try this out at a school."

College de Saint-Ambroise won't be the first school to try such an experiment.

An elementary school in Barrie, Ont. tried something similar in 2008 and found that student grades went up as a result.

In Europe, French President Francois Hollande floated the idea of a countrywide ban in 2012, while schools in Germany have also done away with homework.

Etta Kralovec, a professor at the University of Arizona and the author of The End of Homework, said elementary school students are often so busy with homework they don't have enough time to pursue extra-curricular activities, or simply play.

"The research is very clear that there's no benefit at the elementary school level," Kralovec said.

"At the middle school and high school level, it's more complicated."

Some Canadian parents appear skeptical of the benefits as well.

A 2008 University of Toronto study, which surveyed families in Ontario and the rest of Canada, found that many parents were "unsure about the positive effect of homework on achievement."

At the Jonquiere School Board, Desrosiers said the decision to ban homework has been greeted positively by parents, though some are concerned they won't be as involved in their child's learning process.

Desrosiers said that's not the case.

"There will also be an exercise book so that parents can still keep track of what the students are doing," she said. 

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