Homework Madness

My girl has 5 reference books (Tatabahasa, Pemahaman, Text Book, Activity Book, Workbook) and 5 exercise books (Ejaan, Tulisan, Latihan 1, Latihan 2, Bina Ayat) for her Malay lesson. This is just an example. It is similar for other subjects.

Fortunately, her Malay teacher has informed her which reference book and which exercise book to bring for each day of the week. She writes this down and each time she packs her school bag she has to refer to it in order to remember which books to bring.

Yesterday, she brought the Tuesday books as usual. However, the teacher asked them to use an exercise book not designated for Tuesday because tests are near. So the poor girl copied everything on a piece of paper. It was 1 1/2 pages altogether. 1 1/2 pages may sound little but I realise that for a child that is quite a lot. Especially since, she also has 3 pages of Maths, another 1 page of BM plus the need to study for Spelling, Dictation and Ting Seah for today. Forget about revising for tests next week. There is no time left.

I wanted to paste her work on the correct exercise book for her but she was too frightened so she copied the whole 1 1/2 pages of work onto the correct exercise book again.

Eventually, I had to resort to packing her school bags for her just to make sure she has enough time for rest and sleep. I hate doing that because I do not want to teach her the wrong things but I have no choice. Sleep is very important for her.

It is crazy that the kids have up to 10 books for just one subject. However, I do know that the teachers are trying their best. They each have their own method. The BM teacher, as I mentioned, asks them to bring different books on different days. The English teacher requests that they leave their books in their drawers when tests are near so that they do not have to bring them to and fro. The Chinese teacher who is also their class teacher and teaches them other subjects often manages it by keeping most workbooks in school returning it to them only as and when required.

Even though the teachers do try their best, quite often the kids do get confused by either forgetting to bring their books or bringing unnecessary books because they are afraid. I question the need for so many workbooks. Why can’t they keep it simple?

More about school work in the next post.


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13 thoughts on “Homework Madness

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  2. The Chinese School systems do not seems to be any change since the time I studied but more and more books.. During my time, we have more exercise books than the revision books coz the purchasing power then were smaller than now.. poor girl, and I hope she is coping well.. 😀

    and yes, the Computer class is bit too theoretical la..

    Yah, now we have to buy a lot of activity books plus periodicals too.

  3. Ya. Chinese schools are all like that. I used to see my brother homework piling up on the table. I hope Keith will be able to cope with it next year as I’ve enrolled him for Chinese Primary School.

    Don’t let me frighten you. Haha. Most days we manage, she is having tests at the moment so homework is not welcome now. 🙂

  4. Oh dear, I don’t blame the kids if they think that the school is no fun at all. And they have to spend most of the time in school. What happen to our education system nowadays? At my time, parents were so eager to send to Kebangsaan school and now the opposite pulak. But the kids in Chinese school have to face with the homework madness. So how??? *Sigh*

    None of the choices that are open to us are ideal. They seem to be extremes on either end of the scale.

  5. Wow, that’s a lot of books. My girl doesn’t have that many…even all the exercise books combined can be counted with fingers. Hmmmm….

    Good. It is much better that way!

  6. SIGH….and that would explain the bulky bags or the trolley bags that kids use these days!

    Makes me wonder about our education system. The English issue just makes me mad!!!

    Nowadays, trolley bags are not good enough. You have to have 2 bags to distribute the weight! I see many kids in my girl’s school having 2 bags! Fortunately she is still on the ground floor… Phew! We are not allowed in the premise to help the kids with their bags so I see the kids dragging their bags up the stairs *Bang! Bang! Bang!* they go.

  7. Yet again, I’m glad I didn’t send my daughter to a Chinese-medium school, despite various comments about the advantages surpassing the disadvantages.

    Anna, that is good. We must all be at peace with our own decisions and choices for our children. Despite my grouses, I do not regret sending my girl to a chinese medium school…. yet! Hahaha. I hear it gets worse in the later years but we will cross the bridge when we come to it. At the moment she is doing well and overall happy and that is the most important. 🙂

  8. Contrarion that I am, I won’t add to the many commiserations already here;). Nevertheless I hope a different perspective may help, and hopefully not annoy…

    Seeing as how school studyload is bane of Chinese school culture, and that you are nevertheless anyway at peace with your decision (good on you!) to send your child to a chinese school, why not look for positives instead.

    Chinese schools strive for competitiveness, rather than nurturing any individual student’s unique strengths. Hence, notwithstanding a heftier bagload, the practice of having many workbooks means students are exposed to a wider range (than non-chinese schools) of learning resources for the same subject. Why is this a good thing?

    First, kiasu (remember, competitiveness) society that we live in, many malaysian parents somehow feel a dire ‘need’ to get their kids a few more workbooks than the school booklist specifies – witness the fantastic and astounding selection of workbooks in the bookstores! The extended list of required references in Chinese schools hopefully deters the kiasu parents to get even more (oh, have mercy on the kids!) and possibly not so appropriate/useful ones. At least, the chinese school’s required extended work/reference resources will be specifically relevant to what students will later be examined and assessed on.

    Don’t forget, we now live in the information age, where information comes from very many sources. Less workbooks probably limits the child’s access to (reference) resources to expand their knowledge base, and consequently their ability to be competitive.

    Tough life, but it prepares them for the real world. Therefore, “start ‘em young” is, arguably, an evil necessity.

    Secondly, needing to bring the right books on the right day isn’t a totally bad thing. It provides good practice for organisation skills – a survival skill – something books can’t teach. Again, the evil necessity of starting ‘em young.

    If we have to live with the choices we make, we need to look at opportunities, not problems.

    I’m afraid that more resources does not lead to more knowledge when there is limited time. Sometimes my girl tells me that teacher just tells them what to write in the books but she does not understand what is being taught. Can’t say I blame the teachers when they are pressed for time to complete the syllabus using 5 reference books and 5 exercise books.

    My girl has no problem bringing the right books on the right days because she will bring more books “just in case…..”. I am afraid I don’t see that as a survival skill for a 7 year old but rather as stress and fear for the kids.

  9. MG,
    Evidently, you have mistaken the spirit of my comment. I am so sorry you feel that way. FYI, my sis is a retiring principal at a chinese primary school in sentul. She says most parents will complain anyway, if less homework. They will buy more workbooks and reference books (often wrong ones!) anyway if school does not require them to buy any. In that case, might as well let all students have the same ones, and let teachers provide some guidance in use of these resources, she says.

    As an educator-academic myself, I find it is simplistic to say “more resources does not lead to more knowledge when there is limited time”, thereby totally dismissing the value of resources. Lack of time (within our control to manage, as best we can, anyhow) does not cancel out an inherently good thing. Esp so in a competitive environment -which chinese schools most certainly are! The problem oftentimes, is in adjusting priorities, an every family has different ones. We all do the best we can, of course, for our kids.

    Having strong convictions about the decision for chinese schooling (and please, I really do applaud you for this!), what then is needed to overcome the harder bits at the most basic level, is positive thinking.

    Forgive my honesty, but if your girl brings more “just in case”, the problem is clearly more to do with her own anxious personality, rather than the need to bring different things at different times causing fear and stress. As mentioned previously, chinese schools strive for competitiveness and the good of the collective is pursued over the needs of individuals.

    All said and done, while I always mean well with my comments, I do sometimes fail in communicating my sincere intent. This is clearly one of those times, and I do apologise, and will refrain from making further well meaning comments.

    Hey there! I always enjoy reading your comments so keep them coming. I love it that you can see the positives. You are one person who can see the silver lining in every cloud and that is such a good thing.

    You said “most parents will complain anyway, if less homework. They will buy more workbooks and reference books ”

    I fell that is exactly the point, more kiasuness pressuring the school who in turns pressures the teachers, who pressures the students. It is not an ideal climate or situation.

    However, you are head on in the bringing more books just in case being due to my girl’s own anxious personality.

  10. I forgot to tell you this: In all her 30 years teaching in chinese schools, my sis ever encountered 3 cases where parents strongly objected to the home workload and number of books, enough to make an official complaint and prompt lengthy and discussion with the parents. In all three cases an amicable solution was arrived whereby, parents could if they wish, opt out of buying several books which were optional in terms of educ ministry guidelines. As for homework load, said parents could inform in writing that their child be given less homework, albeit,less than the rest of the class. Again, remember the school system emphasises collective needs over individual needs. The understanding, of course, was that by opting their child out of group norms, parents take resp for their own decisions.

    That is interesting to note. Perhaps I should mention clearly in my post that it is just a personal rant. A rant in my own opinion is a personal view and in some dicts is defined as not presented by a well-researched and calm argument, to scold vehemently. Haha. That is exactly what I am doing because I am worried about my girl’s lack of sleep and as a result I rant about her currently workload. Not all days are like that. It is test season, which makes it a little worse or a LOT worse in my worried mind. 🙂

  11. I followed your “agonising journey” abt chinese schools decison, I do know it is indeed a hard decision to make. Probably first 2 years is the most difficult, being a transition period. Needless to say, parents being parents, ‘suffer’ along with their kids, Quite often more so than their kids!. But by and large, kids have an amazing resilience and ability to adjust (given time) and take things in their stride – more than some parents give them credit for

    As an aside, contrary to popular perception, the decision is no easier overseas – based on my living 10 years in Aust. In state (public) schools, grade 1 onwards teachers are allowed their own ‘teaching policy” which is made known to parents via newsletter in child’s daily diary – which allows parents to request transfer to another class if they object.

    One such policy regards homework. I had 2 nephews, a year apart in age. The elder one was assigned to teacher who dishes out homework daily. Different teachers throughout his 6 years had the same policy. The younger one had same teacher from grade 1 through Grade 4. Woohoo! No homework for 4 years! Imagine his delight and elder brothers outrage!

    How did this pan out?

    1)Elder brother is less bright. Despite daily homework, he still needed “remedial clasess” (usually during lunch break or after school to explain what was just taught). This was done only with parental permission after discussion during pupil evaluation every term. So I guess he would have fared worse without homework.

    2) Younger brother is very intelligent. No homework seems not to have adverse effects since he was selected for spelling bee and maths competitions among state schools. Problem was, Grade 5 onwards, he got teachers who served daily homework! Very interesting consequences – the pain of adjusting!, the delight of his elder brother!

    What can I say, different strokes for different folks.

    Other differences:
    1)No heavy school bags. All books and stationary kept in school so no one forgets. Very few books, at that.
    2)Longer school hours. 9am – 3pm
    3) Smaller classes – maximum 25 to a teacher
    4) Students cannot be punished for not handing in homework, and many students don’t do homework even if given. Parents can reject remedial classes. Needless to say, discipline is, of course, poor. Not mandatory to wear school uniforms!

    Interesting point: numeracy and literacy levels in Australia is LOW, I suspect, lower than Malaysia.

    In Australian universities I find lecturers love chinese students, employers love chinese part-time workers for being industrious and uncomplaining of hardwork.

    Does that make you feel better? Haha….

    Thank you for making me feel better. Hahaha. Although from next year, school hours will be longer ie from 7.45 till about 3.40pm inclusive of 2 days of extra activities and 2 days of compulsory extra lessons for UPSR. Some schools require compulsory lessons from Std 1 but you are allowed to apply for exemptions by writing in. My girl’s class has about 40 to a class and about 6 classes compared to some of the overflowing Chinese schools with 50 to a class and up to 10 classes in each std.

    There is no perfect system. If it is too relaxed, we will all complain too. 🙂

    Another thing, do you know that quite often, my boy who is in the 6 year old class in kindy brings home more homework than his sister? He attends the same kindy as his sister. I, not surprisingly, chose the kindy for its less emphasis on homework. However, over the last two years, in order to compete, and giving in to complaints by some parents, they now dish out daily homework in order to “prepare” the kids to cope for Chinese school. They brought in teachers from kindies who give out 3 term tests a year to prep the kids up. (This particular kindy only gives test once a year at the year end). Fortunately my boy is very independant. He does his homework without complain although at times he will say that his little hands hurt from too much writing and colouring. 🙂 I find that this homework pressure is working up or shall I say working down its way to younger and younger kids. I find it all quite ridiculous but nevertheless get caught up in the whirlpool too.

  12. IMO, parents are the root cause. Chinese school being performance oriented, give in to kiasu parent expectations. High enrolment also means more funding leading to better facilities and equipment, sometimes resulting in better school performance. School boards (directors) expect high enrolment and achievement in exchange for their financial support, and school heads and PTAs are driven by that. A vicious cycle ripples out to the kindy system out of necessity, so that the culture shock of school workload is less when they enter and transition primary school culture.

    What may help is less parental pressure on kids to do it all, and excel into the 90+ percentile. This may also mean that first, parents need to be less demanding of themselves and their own standards to be ‘excellent’ parents as represented by their child’s school performance. Your own anxiety can transfer to the kids. They have to believe that it is ok to score less than 90% or 80% in primary school. The main and healthy thing to strive for is consistency and steady improvement.

    My girl told me that her teacher says she will not accept anything below 70% for their weekly chinese spelling. These days it is so competitive that some parents whose child for scored 99 or 100 for tests found that to their surprise most of the other kids in class did too!

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