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Should Canada follow France's lead and ditch homework?

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French President Francois Hollande has pledged to get rid of homework in his country, arguing among other things that kids who don't get help at home fall behind. (iStock)

As a schoolboy, Francois Hollande may have daydreamed about growing up to be president so that he could abolish homework.

Now the French leader plans to do exactly that, arguing that schoolwork should be done at school so that kids who don't have support after hours don't fall behind.

"An education program is, by definition, a societal program. Work should be done at school rather than at home," Hollande said in a public speech about his plans on Wednesday.

But the catch is that they may also have an extra half-day of classes added on to their current four-day week.

France 24 notes French pupils, for whom the final bell tolls at 5 or 6 p.m., have some of the longest days on the continent.

Still, the idea of nixing homework may alarm those that see it as a time-honoured teaching tool -- but debates about its merits have become more common in recent years.

Author and education analyst Alfie Kohn, for instance, argues that children may be carrying anxiety home alongside their textbooks.

In an interview with CBC's The Homestretch, Kohn said that homework makes kids less excited about learning, and that their exhaustion or frustration can lead to family conflicts.

"My argument is that six hours a day of academics is enough," he said. "And family time is for families to decide what to do with, not for schools to presume to tell kids what to do and, by extension, make their parents enforcers of the school's agenda."

He goes on to argue that, before high school, research does not show a causal relationship between homework and a good education.

"Homework persists because of lack of understanding about understanding."

Still, many parents and educators consider homework a main pillar of education. Many argue that kids need structure more than free time; that doing homework helps them compete with kids in other countries; and that memorization and reinforcement through exercises are the key to learning.

Other parents, like CBC's Anna-Liza Kozmwa, have made the case for picnic tables over times tables. 

"I figure that the kids have been shut in a classroom most of the day, and I've been glued to my desk. So if our wretched climate gives us an excuse to play outside, we should grab it, " she wrote in a feature on homework.

How did you feel about homework as a child? How do you think of it now? Do you think it is indispensable, outdated or something in between?   

(This survey is not scientific. Results are based on readers' replies)

Tags: Education, World

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