Posted 25 February 2008 - 08:51 AM
I reckon it depends almost entirely on the subject in question whether homework's actually useful. The age (and therefore, in theory, the maturity) of the student plays a key part, too. In subjects that are almost entirely practical - Drama, Art, so-called "Design and Technology" - it's difficult, at least in my mind, to set specific homework assignments. As coursework (another fun debate in the UK) makes up a majority of marks in these subjects then I can see why working on that can be a fine replacement for homework (provided it is, of course, monitored).
One important aspect of homework - in general - is improving time management. Being able to get work done for a certain deadline is an art form, certainly, especially when it starts piling up. Once in college (in the UK) or high school (I believe that to be the US equivalent), free time during the "school day" is there to do work. The temptation to spend that time doing next to nothing productive is huge (believe me, I know), but learning to use that time to get work done is a valuable skill alone.
Homework's there to check understanding of a topic, not to just bore the student. Sure, it's often seen as a chore, but it does let the learning/teaching happen during the school day and the teacher's able to make sure the student grasps the topic by setting a homework assignment on it. Personally, I think that's a pretty good use of resources, with teachers teaching rather than sitting there while the students do the work in the lesson itself. It's useful to have a teacher on hand to ask about any problems that come up as you do the work, but meh.
So anyway, as long as homework's set for a reason rather for the sake of giving out X hours of work per week, I quite honestly don't see the problem. I've heard mention of various ideas that involve making the school day longer and having all work done during those hours, but I can't see that being all that beneficial. Once the extra hour or two are up, the students quite simply wouldn't have any incentive to learn time management skills, as they'd have no commitments outside of that time. That might be beneficial to those who have other activities that they enjoy doing, like sport, music, and the like, but I still can't see it working out in the long run.