The text below is a summary of the research evidence on the impact of Homework on the educational attainment of secondary school pupils in sub-Saharan Africa. The information is valuable for African school leaders, administrators and policy makers, as well as 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 evidence. This research also took 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 of research databases (listed below) for related studies in low- and middle-income countries in general, and sub-Saharan Africa in particular.
Definition of the Strand
Researchers and professionals have often disagreed over what constitutes homework and what the definition of homework is (Kazantzis & Dattilio, 2010). Nevertheless, while definitions may vary, there is a consensus that homework refers to tasks, given to pupils by their teachers, to be completed outside of usual lessons. Tasks may include activities ranging from reading or preparing for work to be done in class, or practising and completing tasks already done in class to extended activities to develop inquiry skills (Higgins, et al., 2016).
Why the strand is 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 secondary schools, and what works best in terms of homework administration and content.
Research Evidence in Sub-Saharan Africa
The effects of homework on several outcomes has been a topic of investigation in several studies on the African continent. Much of the research suggests homework has positive effects on students’ performance (e.g. Ngaruiya, 2018; Oyebanji, 2020; and Oluwatimilehin & Owoyele, 2012). Some others have however, arrived at different conclusions and recommendations. For example, Pfeiffer, (2018) finds that ‘no homework has a positive effect on learners’ but ‘no homework will disadvantage pupils in the future’. With inadequate evidence to conclude beyond reasonable doubt, Kunene, (2016) suggests that homework and achievement are correlated, and that there are some benefits of homework beyond academic acquisition. However, the study also highlights that homework ‘marginalizes economically disadvantaged students as in many instances they find it difficult to complete tasks due to environmental issues’.
On subject-specific impact, homework assignments focussing on specific variables (reading and note-taking) have been thought to contribute significantly to academic performance in English language (Oluwatimilehin & Owoyele, 2012). In a study investigating the nature of mathematics homework in secondary schools in Kenya, Ngaruiya (2018) reveals that while homework is most frequently set in mathematics, it was the subject students performed least well in. In contrast, a pre-post study investigating the effects of homework assignments on the mathematics achievement of secondary school students in South West Nigeria found that those who were exposed to homework assignments performed significantly better in a 30-item multiple choice mathematics achievement test than those who were not (Olufemi, 2014).
Other studies have focused on alternative aspects of homework, such as the practices, relevance and styles. These have made suggestions that homework can only be beneficial when completed and submitted in time, and if it is properly deployed to enhance learning outcomes (Oyebanji, 2020; Yu, 2007; Victoria O. O. & Olukemi M. O, 2018).
In SSA, the research evidence regarding the benefit of homework is largely positive. While there may be doubt relating to the impact on overall attainment and on some subjects, some authors still recommend homework. For example, Pfeiffer, (2018) conducted a ‘no-homework’ policy review in South Africa and suggests that ‘no homework’ is likely to disadvantage students in the future notwithstanding the fact that that it has no positive effects on learners’. The research literature suggests that, if not for attainment or better performance in some subjects, homework helps to build skills like proper time management, working independently on their own at home, which are necessary for future success. To harness these benefits, careful consideration should be given to the content, deployment and feedback provided through homework.
Impact, Security, and Cost of Local Evidence
The available studies investigating the impact of homework on educational outcomes in SSA largely suggest positive outcomes. Many of the studies however are literature reviews and observational studies, largely conducted in Eastern African countries, South Africa and a few others in West Africa. There also is also one quasi-experimental study conducted in Nigeria. Overall, the evidence is very limited. To address this evidence gap, studies that are more rigorous like randomized trials are recommended.
The cost of implementing homework in SSA and particularly the Lake Chad basin is likely to be moderate.
Homework, assignment, exercise, home exercise, take home assignment.
Gina Chowa, D. A.-A. (2012). Parental Involvement and Academic Performance in Ghana. Washington University in St Louis.
Higgins, S., Katsipataki, M., Villanueva-Aguilera, A., Coleman, R., Henderson, P., Major, L., … Mason, D. (2016). The Sutton Trust-Education Endowment Foundation Teaching and Learning Toolkit.
London.: Education Endowment Foundation.
Ingwu Emmanuel U, B. S. (2010). An Examination of Parental Involvement in Homework and Implication for Adult Education . An International Multi-Disciplinary Journal.
Kazantzis, N., & Dattilio, F. (2010). Definitionsof Homework,Typesof Homework,and Ratings of the Importance of Homework Among Psychologists With Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Psychoanalytic Theoretical Orientations. JOURNAL OF CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGY.
Kunene, M. (2016). EDUCATORS’ PERCEPTIONS OF THE EVIDENCE USED TO SUPPORT DECISIONS ABOUT HOMEWORK: A CASE STUDY OF A FORMER MODEL C SECONDARY SCHOOL IN GAUTENG. University of the Witwatersrand.
Laboy Rivera, J. A. (2018). “EFFECTS OF APPLYING STUDENT-CENTERED TECHNIQUES IN MATHEMATICS ACHIEVEMENT: A CAMEROON CASE STUDY. Michigan Technological University.
Michael Perry Kweku Okyerefo, D. Y. (2011). Factors prompting pupils’ academic performance in privately owned Junior High Schools in Accra, Ghana. International Journal of Sociology and Anthropology Vol. 3(8), pp. 280 – 289.
Mualuko, N. J. (2007). The issue of poverty in the provision of quality education in Kenyan secondary schools. Academic Journals.
Ngaruiya, B. N. (2018). Nature of mathematics homework in secondary schools in Kenya. Journal of Popular Education in Africa.
Olufemi, A. S. (2014). The Effect of Homework Assignment on Mathematics Achievement of Secondary School Students in South West Nigeria. Journal of Education and Practice.
Oluwatimilehin, J. T., & Owoyele, J. W. (2012). STUDY HABITS AND ACADEMIC STUDY HABITS AND ACADEMIC AMONG JUNIOR SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS IN ONDO STATE, NIGERIA. Bulgarian Journal of Science and Education Policy (BJSEP).
Oyebanji, A. I. (2020). The Use of Homework in Social Studies at Public Junior Secondary Schools in Oyo, Nigeria. International Journal of Aerospace System Science and Engineering.
Pfeiffer, V. (2018). Homework policy review: A case study of a public school in the Western Cape Province. South African Journal of Education.
Rosário, P., Cunha, J., Nunes, T., Nunes, A., Moreira, T., & Núñez, J. (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.
Victoria O. O. & Olukemi M. O, F. A. (2018). Effects of Teachers’ Utilisation of Tiered Home Assignment on Students’ Achievements in Mathematics. International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research.
Yu, G. (2007). School Effectiveness and Education Quality in Southern and East Africa. EdQual: A Research Program Consortium on Implementing Education Quality in Low Income Countries.