The text below is a summary of the research evidence on the impact of homework (primary) on the educational attainment of pupils in sub-Saharan Africa. The information here is valuable for African school leaders, administrators and policy makers, as well as for parents who may be thinking of better ways to improve the educational attainment of their children.
Effective Basic Services (eBASE) Africa developed this summary using available research evidence while also taking into consideration prominent themes arising from key informant interviews (KII) and focus group discussions (FGD), particularly FGD with teachers and students. The research evidence in this summary is acquired from a detailed and replicable search protocol used on a wide range – listed below – of research databases for related studies in low- and middle-income countries in general and sub-Saharan Africa in particular.
Definition of Strand
Homework can be defined as the different tasks that teachers give to their pupils to complete out of usual class lessons, usually at home. For primary schools, homework activities will usually center around spelling and number facts, but may also include more extended activities to develop inquiry skills or more directed and focused work such as revision for tests.(Higgins et al., 2016).
Why is this strand important?
For many years, homework has been part of teaching and learning processes across many countries in the world. While some literature stresses the importance of homework in fostering student’s academic achievement, existing research indicates that the amount of homework assigned is not always related to high academic achievement (Rosário et al., 2019). This strand is therefore important as it establishes the extent to which homework is effective in primary schools, what works best in terms of homework administration and content and highlights parental involvement in homework.
Summary of Research in SSA
There is an overall belief that take home assignments or homework will improve students’ learning outcomes. Such assumptions have rarely been questioned in the sub-Saharan African context and as a result, research on the impact of homework (primary) on educational attainment has rarely been conducted. Instead, most homework (primary) related studies within the region have rather focused on parental involvement in children’s homework, with some studies looking at interventions to support their involvement.
When investigating the perceptions of school leaders of using homework at the foundation phase for primary school children in Johannesburg, (Ndebele, 2018) found that participating principals believed homework was an important tool for teaching and learning in primary school, and agreed that it supported academic performance. Differences in parental involvement in children homework were associated with illiteracy of some parents in the English language and socio-economic status of the parent/guardian with those from higher income backgrounds perceived to offer more support than poorer, single or unemployed parents. (Ndebele, 2018).
Despite its continuous use in most SSA countries, the impact of homework on learners’ outcomes have rarely been questioned for primary school children. Some studies carried out have rather focused on parental involvement in homework and administrators’ perceptions.
Qualitative research in South Africa showed positive perceptions of teachers and principals and toward homework while highlighting differences in parental involvement.
Generally, research on the impact of homework in primary schools is still absent within the SSA context. More research is therefore needed to ascertain the effectiveness of homework in improving learners’ outcomes and to inform the level of parental involvement in children’s homework.
Impact, Security, Cost of Local Evidence
The research evidence is severely limited. There are no robust quantitative studies. As a result, a randomized trial on the impact of homework on the educational attainment of primary school pupils within the region is an absolute necessity.
The cost of implementing homework (primary) in the Lake Chad Basin is likely to be moderate.
Assignment, Exercise, Home Exercise, take home assignment, Flipped learning.
Taylor and Francis
Higgins, S., Katsipataki, M., Villanueva-Aguilera, A. B., Coleman, R., Henderson, P., Major, L. E., Coe, R., & Mason, D. (2016). The Sutton Trust-Education Endowment Foundation Teaching and Learning Toolkit.
Ndebele, M. (2018). Homework in the Foundation Phase: Perceptions of principals of eight public primary schools in Johannesburg. South African Journal of Education, 38(2), 1 – 12.
Rosário, P., Cunha, J., Nunes, T., Nunes, A. R., Moreira, T., & Núñez, J. C. (2019). “Homework should be… but we do not live in an ideal world”: Mathematics teachers’ perspectives on quality homework and on homework assigned in elementary and middle schools. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 224.