For sure, in the Italian educational system many things have changed in the last years, but often the teachers still assign too many homework to the students.
I still remember when – just 4-5 years ago – my son spent whole evening to complete the assigned homework. It’s true that any student has his/her own way to study and takes (needs) his/her own time, and that my son was tendencially slow, but it needs many hours to carry out all those tasks, undoubtedly.
To understand more, you must consider that any schoolteacher, who had had class that day, assigned his/her homework also if, as usually, the math exercises always have been the most burdensome. Usually, the math teacher assigned many exercises to carry out, while Italian/grammar teacher assigned many history’s page to read and learnt, often asking to repeat also some previous geographic or history’s chapters. For most students – that are not the most skilled – such homework load needs many hours a day to be executed decently.
About homeschooling, Italian school always has had a different approach from USA methodology, especially in the past. It’s well known that from long in USA, any teacher follows the ’10-minute rule’, the widely accepted practice of assigning 10 minutes of homework per day per grade-level. In the United Kingdom, recommendations on homework quantities were outlined by the Department for Education in 1998, and ranged from 10 minutes daily reading for 5-year-olds, to up to 2.5 hours per day for the pupils in Year 11 aged 15 or 16. Though, in UK, things improved in the sequent years, while the amount of homework in America actually hasn’t changed that much over the past 20 years.
According to the National center for education statistics, in USA the time spent on homework (in percentage) was much lower than in all the other countries. According to a 1995-96 math and science study, public school students from France, Italy, Russia and South America reported spending at least twice as much time on homework as American students reported. Besides, a survey done in a secondary school in Asia, showed that Americans there did 22% less homework than the Asians an 45% less than the European students. American students spend less time on homework than their European and Asian counterparts, with the amount of time spent by Italian student remarkably higher. In an EU study (meta-analysis by Hattie, 2009), in Italy and other European countries, more than 95% of students study at home more than 2 hours per week for the 3 main subjects, as grammar, math and science. And I’m sure that in southern Italy the situation is worse than in northern where education is better.
Note that this does not mean that Italian school works better and that leads to have more skilled students, not at all! Instead, assigning many homework is a symptom of an appropriate system, with teachers who apparently try to bridge the gaps through homeschooling method. And this, for most students, is a damage and counterproductive, because they still are not able to perform by themselves the tasks assigned, nor even to learn a lesson that has been defective in class. Often, parents must help them, and when their children attend a high school, they even are not able to give a support. This is one of the reason why in Italy and in the southern especially, there are many private prep organizations or private tutors that give post school activity. There are various researches supporting the idea that homework is of little educational value, and that for young people it may have a negative effect on learning.
School must adopt life patterns more responsive to changing needs and current society, to a more thorough assessment of the problems of leisure activities such as sports, recreation, arts and socialization.
Since I have been a student for long 15 years and have closely followed the teaching activities of my children, I can say, with knowledge of the facts, that the chief problem of the Italian school always has been the unpreparedness of many teachers. Unluckily, many teachers are unable to teach. The other very important issue concerns methodology and equipment. Between school and the working world (trade, business, research, etc..) should be a close connection and exchange, and for school and qualification/research should be allocated more resources and means.