"Duties generate inequalities, there are students who receive help at home or families who can afford to pay for support classes, there are others who do not," explains Toni Solano, director of the Bovalar Institute of Castellón, which in 2016 was declared a center "without duties". Its objective was to reduce the dropout rate and after two years they have already achieved it. In the 2012-2013 academic year, 50% of the students of the different levels of the ESO suspended more than four subjects and repeated, a percentage that this year has dropped to 40%. Of the 70 teachers at the center, 30 have signed this course a commitment to limit the tasks that students must solve at home.
"The students spend between six and seven hours locked up in the institute, now, without homework, they come with more enthusiasm and take much more time," says Francesc Collado, a professor at the center, cataloged as CAES (CEntries of Singular Educational Performance) for the attendance of students who live in marginal neighborhoods or present complicated family situations. In his opinion, one of the worst consequences of homework is that a great part of the teaching hours are destined to correct those tasks. "You enter a wrong dynamic," he adds.
Spain is among the countries in which 15-year-old students spend more time on homework, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In Spain they spend 6.5 weekly compared to 4.8 on average among the industrialized countries. In other reports, that same agency notes that you can open a gap among students with more or less resources – the income of families is one of the main factors that influence the performance of students – although it defends "very solid" reasons for assigning after-school tasks such as "helping students with difficulties" , ensure that they retain it in their long-term memory or provide an additional stimulus for high-ability students.
In the document signed by the 30 professors, which the center calls "contract" and which is voluntary, there are some points such as "do not send homework that involves repetition or response based on data copy" or "do not order abstracts or schemes if the contents have not been worked previously in the classroom ".
"The times of the old school have passed and the current reality demands new educational challenges, both methodological and organizational, to respond to a student with new interests and needs," the document states. These new pedagogies consist, for example, in the use of collaborative work dynamics, which "improve coexistence" and "motivate" students, explains the director of the center.
These measures are aligned with the Law of Rights and Guarantees of Children and Adolescents of the Valencian Community, which came into effect in December and includes a recommendation that duties should not "undermine" in primary and secondary "the right to leisure" of the students, so that the excess of tasks does not reduce the playing time. In no case is it mandatory for the centers.
"Traditional duties are usually based on mechanical repetition or tasks that are not framed in a real context, they are not a tool that serves to improve learning," says Francesc Collado. Another indicator of the success of the measure, according to the direction of the institute, is the decrease in the number of disciplinary files: from the 28 of 2016 to the 11 of 2018. The incidents in the classroom –problems among students or between students and teachers– they have also been reduced in that period: from 164 to 37.