The learner’s academic work at school, in the classroom and at home

Mariet Simonyan

The State Standards of Public Education, the normative document regulating the public school learner’s academic work in Armenia, defines the learner’s academic workload according to educational programs (degrees) and grades, allocates yearly-weekly minimum or maximum  academic hours possible among educational areas. Neither the State Standards of Public Education, nor any other normative document: a law of RA, a government resolution, an order of the Ministry of Education and Science defines the learner’s work at home: scope of work or contents. The so called home-work has established itself with a force of tradition so well in school life that the subject syllabuses include them without being legally justified, and the learners’ parents and teachers, as the first protectors of learners rights, do not even discuss their being obligatory.

The complaint about home assignments and their scope of work was first raised in the Middle School of the Educomplex during the 2012-2013 school-year. As it is always done the question was raised by disciplined, capable and responsible learners: Eventually, the scope of work is heroically carried on their shoulders by responsible learners. And it is just that group of capable learners that are mainly engaged in after school activities: Music, sports, drawing, learning computer programs, in a word, a serious scope of further education. The learners expressed their ideas in the online discussion on the Middle School website. The issues are serious: lessons, lessons, lessons and then to sleep, sleep, sleep “But shouldn’t I spend time with my family?”, “Besides my lessons I don’t manage to do anything else”, “I only manage to go out into the yard on Sundays for a short time”.

The discussion continued during the 2013-2014 school year. It was reflected in the learners’ blogs. A survey on home assignments was held among the teachers to find out their attitude and actions concerning that matter. The learners say that their workload is very much even when 41% of teachers consider that they give little homework to do, 18% of teachers do not give any homework; and it is natural. At Middle School the learner's weekly workload according to the curriculum is 34-35 academic hours: In case of a five-day school week it is 6-7 hours per day or from 9:00 to 15:00. After that most learners (nearly 70% of the learners at Middle School) get various forms of further education: they continue their education at different institutions, take private lessons at tutors' places, in their families or get self-education according to their preferences. The parents' and learners' approaches ere different during the discussion: from “It's good, and it is still little” to “That’s enough, we don’t want any.” The difference is obvious today when the learner with his/her parent is making up his/her individual curriculum mentioning on which subjects he/she would like to be given home assignments. We have to individualize education according to our educational program, of course, definitely formulating our approaches.

What objectives are assigned to middle school that the learner can't realize with the help of specialist teachers in 6-7 hours a day in a well-thought of and well-designed educational environment? Aren't lessons organized effectively? Let them be organized effectively. Are big objectives assigned to public education? They are regulated with the state standards and are quite modest just directed to promoting skills. Why should the learners get such a scope of home assignments that they with their parents rightfully complain about it? What is the legal basis for loading a person of that age with so much work? Isn't it a violation of the child's rights? Here is the study of the law of RA “On the Rights of the Child” done by Ashot Tigranyan, a teacher of History and Social Studies, with his students. And this is the suggestion formulated by the learners: “Being convinced that learning is one of the most difficult and time taking work, implementing the learner's right of choosing homework will contribute to increasing the efficiency of education and to augmenting the factors stimulating the multilateral development of learners' personality, we suggest making the following supplement to the internal regulations of the Educomplex: the learner has the right to choose a home assignment or not to do any home assignments at all; the choice of the contents and form of the learner’s home educational activities is the learner’s   inalienable and integral right .”  In other words the educational home work is the learner’s right as a form of further education. The public school can take over the responsibility for providing the learner with this right.

The Middle School teachers’ discussions showed that this group of capable learners is ready to organize their lessons without obligatory homework. So we are going to experiment the following at Middle School during the 2014-2015 school year.

The teacher presenting general a general course of public education is supposed to publish the subject syllabus and educational projects before the beginning of the new school year and the teaching materials of a lesson, the lesson plan of that given lesson are to be published before the lesson. The teacher plans the lessons so that not only the contents of the school subject syllabus is realized but also the principles of author educational programme begin to work: individualization of education, the mobile character, the use of digital means and computer programs which are defined with the educational programme, the learner is engaged in different educational activities directed to develop skills.

Can there be a learner who will finish the class work mentioned in the lesson plan sooner than others? Of course, there can be. He can spend his free time on other educational work including further education. And the teacher can offer such learners additional teaching materials developing their endowments. That may result in choosing homework as a form of further education. The learner, who hasn’t finished the task in class, may continue working on it at the next lesson. The teacher mentions this in the lesson plan. There can be a learner who may want to continue fulfilling the task at home using additional materials on his own initiative. The teacher is supposed to encourage such an initiative supporting the learner with advice and instructions. That can also result in homework as a form of further education.

The learner, who is absent, can take part in the lesson in the distant learning method or online. This not considered to be homework as the learner spends the time allocated to the given lesson.

Lessons without homework will help both the teacher and learners not to deviate from the lesson plan and effectively use the time allocated to it not relying on learner's work at home.

The learner's work in class and the work results are registered and assessed in the electronic register in an established order regardless of the fact whether the learner has chosen homework as a form of further education or not.

The programme of homework as a form of further education is compiled separately. It can be intended either for developing endowments in a given field or have a corrective purpose. It can be a project of a definite field-course or an integrating project of different fields-courses, series of projects.

The teacher follows the same terms in conducting homework as a form of further education as that of a course of public education: by publishing a packet of teaching materials beforehand (school literature, educational projects, non-standard problems and tasks).

The learner's homework as a form of further education is registered in the learner's individual curriculum and in the learning contract. The changes are mentioned in the supplement of the learning contract. The learners, who have chosen homework programme, mainly do the programme tasks at home (they can also do them in class if they have finished the work intended to be done according to the given lesson plan), perform distant communication with the teacher who is in charge for homework programme, get clarifications, tasks and other materials individually or in groups. Meetings of working groups of teachers and learners having chosen the homework programme are regularly organized in a physical environment. The learner’s work and its result on this programme is registered and assessed regardless of the work done in class according to the course syllabus.          

Annual open reviews, open educational projects are also forms of further education implemented in the Educomplex. Participation in them and their results are also registered electronically in an established order.

At the end of a school year, while summarizing the learner’s work results, the learner’s achievements by different educational fields are registered which include the results of  general public educational courses, preferred courses and those of further education.

The area of educational work described above is the Middle School media library, which is a new educational blogging area where all the educational electronic packets are published: general, by the learner’s choice and that of further education. The learner’s work area is also known and published.   








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