family - Reli Avrahami - December 3 2010
The Arhayim el-Heibs at home in Tuba Zangariya. From left: Jumana, Abdallah, Mirwat, Braah, Aya (in front), Yihyah and Bashar. Photo by Reli Avrahami
Text size

Only 37 percent of Israel's Jewish parents believe it is important to do homework, compared to 60 percent of Arab parents, a new study has found.

A poll of students showed a similar gap: Only 58 percent of Jewish students said they did all the homework they were assigned at school, as compared to 78 percent of Arab students.

The study, conducted by Dr. Bruria Shadel and Dr. Yovav Eshet of Western Galilee College, looked into various aspects of parental involvement in and expectations of education. They questioned 1,200 parents, 2,300 students and 200 teachers at 20 elementary schools, both Jewish and Arab, in the north of the country. The full findings of the study are due to be presented at a conference at the college next month.

The researchers said the differences between Jewish and Arab respondents reflect different views not only of homework, but also about the wider role of education as an instrument of social mobility. Shadel told Haaretz that Arab parents see academic success as an opportunity to break out of the cycle of poverty. They therefore see homework as an important tool, and are thus more willing to spend time helping their children with it and ensuring that it is done.

Jewish parents, by contrast, believe that doing homework is the child's responsibility, and that parents are meant to stay in the background, while being available to monitor and help. Shadel also said Jewish students usually enjoy more access to after-school activities than their Arab counterparts, and this, too, was a reason for the latter's greater focus on their studies.

Fully 47 percent of the Arab students told the researchers they love doing homework, compared to only 13 percent of the Jewish students, while 64 percent of the Arab students said they do homework every day, compared to 54 percent of the Jews. Arab teachers were also found to attach more importance to homework than their Jewish colleagues.

Another finding was that only a third of the Jewish students spend 30 to 45 minutes a day doing homework, compared to about half of the Arab students. In addition, only 58 percent of Jewish students said they finish all their homework, compared to 78 percent of their Arab peers.

The study also found that parental assistance in doing homework is not affected by such factors as the child's gender or the parents' own education.