Poland’s kids rejoice over new rules against homework. Teachers and parents aren’t so sure

Category: Education/Family


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. modernize / ˈmɒd ərˌnaɪz / (v.) – to make changes or updates to a system, method, etc., to make it suitable for use at the present time

    The company invested in new equipment to modernize its manufacturing processes.

  2. rote / roʊt / (n.) – the way or process of learning something by repeating it many times without understanding it

    The students learned the multiplication tables through rote learning, but they struggled to apply the concepts in real-world problem-solving.

  3. decree / dɪˈkri / (n.) – an official decision or order from the government that something must happen

    The decree from the city council banned the use of plastic bags in grocery stores.

  4. skeptical / ˈskɛp tɪ kəl / (adj.) – having doubts and concerns about something

    The community grew skeptical about the government’s commitment to infrastructure improvements after years of broken promises and delays.

  5. contextual / kənˈtɛks tʃu əl / (adj.) – related to the specific situation or environment of someone or something

    The artist’s paintings were highly contextual to human experiences.


Read the text below.

Ola Kozak is celebrating. The 11-year-old, who loves music and drawing, expects to have more free time for her hobbies after Poland’s government ordered strict limits on the amount of homework in the lower grades.

“Most people in my class in the morning would copy the work off someone who had done the homework or would copy it from the internet. So it didn’t make sense,” she said.

The government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk enacted the ban against required homework last month amid a broad discussion about the need to modernize Poland’s education system, which critics say puts too much emphasis on rote learning and homework, and not enough on critical thinking and creativity.

Under the decree, teachers are no longer to give required homework to kids in the first to third grades. In grades four to eight, homework is now optional and doesn’t count toward a grade.

Not everyone likes the change–and even Ola’s parents are divided.

“If there is something that will make students enjoy school more, then it will probably be good both for the students and for the school,” said her father, Pawel Kozak. His wife, Magda Kozak, was skeptical. “I am not pleased, because (homework) is a way to consolidate what was learned,” she said. “It helps stay on top of what the child has really learned and what’s going on at school.”

Debates over the proper amount of homework are common around the globe. While some studies have shown little benefit to homework for young learners, other experts say it can help them learn how to develop study habits and academic concepts.

Education Minister Barbara Nowacka said she was prompted by research on children’s mental health. Of the various stresses children face, she said, “the one that could be removed fastest was the burden of homework.”

Pasi Sahlberg, a prominent Finnish educator and author, said the value of homework depends on what it is and how it is linked to overall learning. The need for homework can be “very individual and contextual.”

“We need to trust our teachers to decide what is good for each child,” Sahlberg said.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Do you think Poland’s decision to limit homework for younger students will enhance creativity and critical thinking, or will it hinder academic progress? Why? Discuss.
  • If this decree were applied in your country, how do you think parents and students would react? How would you personally react to it? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Sahlberg said that we need to trust our teachers to decide what is good for each child. Based on your own experiences, were your teachers effective in determining the appropriate amount and type of homework for you and your classmates? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • Do young students in your country have free time for their hobbies? What makes you say so? What do you think is the importance of allowing children to have more free time to do their hobbies? Discuss.