Polish pupils have higher homework burden than international average, finds study

Polish school pupils have a slightly higher homework burden than the average in other countries, a report by Poland’s Educational Research Institute (IBE) has found. It also noted that greater amounts of homework are not associated with better learning outcomes – in fact, the opposite is true.

The IBE – an institution supervised by the education ministry – published its findings shortly before the government abolishes homework in primary schools next month.

Its report also found, however, that most Polish parents are satisfied with the current amount of homework their children receive. A separate survey of Polish parents and teachers has also indicated that most do not support the complete abolition of homework.

Compulsory, graded homework will be abolished in Poland’s primary schools from April, the education minister has announced.

She also reiterated pledges to slim down the curriculum, reduce the number of Catholic catechism classes and increase teachers’ pay https://t.co/iYs2grsSvl

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) January 19, 2024

IBE analysed existing research findings on homework, with a particular focus on data from three international comparative studies: TIMSS, PIRLS and PISA.

The report noted that the international evidence shows that, in fact, the less time pupils spend on homework the higher are their average skill levels. However, IBE also stated it is not possible to say what the cause-effect relationship is here.

“It is possible that a tradition of assigning homework rooted in a given country has an impact on student achievements, but also possibly more effective teaching translates into less need for homework,” wrote the institute.

☑️Publikacja Ekspertów IBE na temat: #pracedomowe
👇Zapraszamy do lektury:https://t.co/CCGImMyerc

Publikacja w ramach projektu finansowanego ze środków Unii Europejskiej i środków budżetu państwa (Fundusze Europejskie dla Rozwoju Społecznego).#FunduszeUE #FunduszeEuropejskie pic.twitter.com/aZN7PGmjQi

— Instytut Badań Edukacyjnych IBE (@ibe_edu) March 6, 2024

The report did find that the educational effectiveness of homework depends not on its frequency and intensity, but on its quality. While high-quality feedback can increase positive homework outcomes, the least effective combination is when teachers assign a lot of homework but do not check it later.

According to self-reported data from PIRLS 2021 – which covers 56 countries and territories – pupils in Poland spend around 1.7 hours per day on homework while the average in other countries is 1.5 hours.

The PIRLS data also showed that only around 30% of Polish parents agree with the statement that “my teacher’s child gives too much homework”, with 70% disagreeing. Over 85% agreed that “my child does well with their homework” and 54% said that their child enjoys homework.

The data also showed, however, that boys spend less time on homework than girls and that children from families with lower socioeconomic status spend less time on homework their their peers.

Poland has ranked first among EU countries – alongside Finland – in an international test of reading comprehension among school pupils.

It also has one of the largest gender disparities, with girls performing much more strongly than boys https://t.co/JHUh94BA0t

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) May 16, 2023

Data from PISA 2022 showed that 64% of pupils in Poland have schools that provide homework space, compared to an average of 74% among all OECD countries. In Poland, 42% can count on teacher support with homework compared to 62% across the OECD.

However, according to principals, 84% of students in Poland use peer support when doing homework. This is significantly more than the average of 51% in OECD countries.

Findings from TIMSS and PIRLS showed that recent years have seen a decrease in the amount of homework Polish pupils receive in maths, science and Polish classes, with a similar trend seen in other countries.

Poland has continued its rise towards the top of the PISA education rankings, where it is now third in Europe for maths and science and fourth in reading comprehension https://t.co/Qt9l9wfCdo

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) December 3, 2019

IBE published its analysis before the controversial abolition of compulsory, graded homework in Polish primary schools, which will go into force from April. The decision was announced by Barbara Nowacka, the education minister, in January, fulfilling a pre-election promise by her party.

Nowacka said that currently, primary school pupils have “an excess of things to learn, to memorise, also at home, at the expense of free time, at the expense of extra-curricular activities, at the expense of meeting friends”.

Her plans were, however, criticised by former education minister Anna Zalewska, from the opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party. Abolishing homework would reduce teachers’ freedom to choose their methods and would fail to prepare students for the realities of the labour market, said Zalewska.

Poland’s education ministry has published draft plans to cut school curriculums to allow „more effective, in-depth” learning with more emphasis on analysis and less on memorisation

But the opposition says important events will be cut from history teachinghttps://t.co/oe4WCG1m84

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) February 15, 2024

A recent non-representative citizen survey conducted by “SOS for Education” – a coalition of 40 organisations monitoring the state of education in Poland – found that only 7% of teachers and 23% of parents surveyed supported the complete abolition of homework.

Among both groups, the idea to “diminish but not abolish” homework dominates, with 57% of teachers and 44% of parents in favour of this solution.

Homework arrangements in other European countries vary. In France, written homework in primary schools has been banned since 1956, while in Estonia only first-grade pupils are not given any homework.

Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Greece, Luxembourg and Romania introduced solutions limiting the amount of time that primary school pupils spend on homework and specifying when it is to be given or the nature of the tasks.

Notes from Poland is run by a small editorial team and published by an independent, non-profit foundation that is funded through donations from our readers. We cannot do what we do without your support.

Main image credit: Unsplash

Agata Pyka is an assistant editor at Notes from Poland. She is a journalist and a political communication student at the University of Amsterdam. She specialises in Polish and European politics as well as investigative journalism and has previously written for Euractiv and The European Correspondent.

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