Education Min. Plan to Tailor Homework to Pupil Draws Fire

Some teachers are skeptical that the current reality in class would enable them to devote the required extra effort to make that possible.

Elementary school pupils may soon be taking home individually-tailored homework, in accordance with a new plan by the Education Ministry. But teachers and parents alike are already voicing concerns.

The initiative is slated to feature today in the Mofet Institute conference on the various aspects of homework, sponsored jointly by the ministry and teacher colleges.

"We believe that homework assignments need to fit into the heterogeneous makeup of the pupil population," says Sara Reuter, head of the ministry's elementary education branch. "We aim to further develop how homework assignments vary from pupil to pupil, according to each pupil's level of performance."

Reuter added: "We want to move past those five questions that teachers give students at the end of every class." Reuter says she is designing a new program for giving out and grading homework.

"Some pupils need more practice than others. Some can write fairly freely and fluently," she adds. "Just as teachers teach in a way that addresses the different levels of performance in class, so homework can address those differences," says Reuter.

The diversification of homework chores could see the assignment of different tasks to pupils in the same classes. For example, when studying about the weather, some pupils would be sent to interview a meteorologist. Others would be instructed to monitor temperature fluctuations, while a third group would be told to summarize and write essays about the subject from text books.

But some teachers are skeptical that the current reality in class would enable them to devote the required extra effort to make that possible. "I don't get to all my pupils as it is," says Amalia Cohen, an elementary school teacher from Tel Aviv. "It is difficult to see how I would be able to add individually-tailored homework."

Etti Benyamin, chairwoman of the National Parent Association, fears the new system could create a scholastic cast system that would "humiliate weaker pupils and mark them in class."

She added: "Teachers need to aspire to bring all the pupils to an equal level while assisting weaker students during school hours - not to establish different classes in the same class."

In preparing for the conference, Mofet commissioned a survey which showed that nine out of every 10 parents believe that homework is an important part of schooling, and should not be dispensed with.

But 60 percent of the 500 or so parents who took part in the research also agreed with the statement that pupils are able to succeed at school even if they don't consistently prepare their homework.