© Research Journal of Internatıonal Studıes - Issue 13 (March, 2010) 63
Organisation of Homework: Malaysian Teachers’ Practices and
Gurnam Kaur Sidhu
Faculty of Education, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia
Chan Yuen Fook
Faculty of Education, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia
In 2004, the Malaysian Ministry of Education, issued a new circular on homework with the
aim of providing some structure to the organisation of homework in Malaysian schools.
Therefore this study set out to explore teachers’ practices and perspectives on the
organization of homework in Malaysian public primary schools. The study comprised 297
teachers from 17 primary schools located in Malaysia. The data collection process included
the use of a questionnaire, semi structured interviews and document analyses. The findings
of the study revealed that teachers view homework favourably and see it as an important
aspect in consolidating and extending upon classroom learning. Teachers claimed they
distributed homework evenly but findings revealed that there has no concerted effort in
planning homework for each level. Teachers were also seen assigning more practice based
tasks leaving little room for preparation and extension activities and other fun and engaging
real life learning experiences. Though school administrators ensured teachers promptly
marked and assessed pupils’ homework the implementation of homework practices and
teachers’ adherence to guidelines provided left much to be desired. Arguably, the findings
of this study cast doubts as to the effectiveness of teachers’ practices in the organisation of
homework in the Malaysian classrooms.
Keywords: Homework Organisation, Homework Assignments, Teaching and Learning
Homework generally refers to tasks assigned to pupils by school teachers that are intended to be
carried out during nonschool hours. To this Butler (1987) adds that homework refers to time students
spend outside the classroom in assigned activities to practice, reinforce or apply newly-acquired skills
and knowledge. More importantly it also helps pupils develop the necessary skills of independent
study. In Malaysia, homework became an issue of wide public concern in 2004 when Carr-Gregg
published his findings in a local daily (The New Straits Times, July 30, 2004, p. 2) highlighting that
Malaysian students spend more time on homework compared to their counterparts in other countries.
The Malaysian students were said to spend an average of 3.8 hours a day compared to Singapore (3.5),
Russia (3.1), Australia & Canada (2.2) and Japan (1.7). This report further led to more public
discussions and debates on other related aspects of homework such as the benefits of homework, the
types of homework assignments and even the frequency and feedback on homework. What is most
interesting was the fact that the articles published in the local dailies sparked a nation wide concern
over homework in Malaysian schools and everyone ranging from politicians and parents to
© Research Journal of Internatıonal Studıes - Issue 13 (March, 2010) 64
educationists held wide and differing views. Some felt that teachers were giving too much homework
due to a lack of effective co-ordination among various subject teachers while others declared that some
homework assignments given by teachers were rather pointless and mind-numbing. Yet there were
others who felt that the amount of time spent on homework should be better utilised doing activities
that engage the minds of children in meaningful learning.
The matter was investigated by the Ministry of Education and consequently a new curricular on
homework referred to as Surat Pekeliling Ikhtisas Bil 12/2004. Garis Panduan Umum Pemberian
Kerja Rumah kepada Murid Sekolah was issued on 31 December 2004 (Ministry of Education, 2004).
The circular highlighted the objective and importance of homework and put forward three aspects of
the organisation of homework in Malaysian public schools–i.e. the planning, implementation and
monitoring. Furthermore, teachers were reminded to use their discretion when giving homework taking
into account factors such as amount, type, frequency, level of difficulty and students abilities. Teachers
were also advised to think carefully before assigning homework because spot checks would be
conducted by the state and federal Inspectorate Division to ensure schools’ adherence to the given
guidelines. Henceforth school management and Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs) were encouraged
to set up their own mechanisms to ensure effective implementation and monitoring of homework in
schools such as requiring subject teachers to display homework given to each class. The Minister of
Education emphasized that the “guidelines must be strictly adhered to and not treated as mere rhetoric
and a cosmetic move.” (The Star, 2005, p.2). He further pointed out that homework should be fun and
teachers must plan it well so that students are not over burdened with excessive and unnecessary
homework. Even the former director of schools, (The Star, 2005, p.2) added that homework should be
a beneficial activity and he advised that the school curriculum committee plan the amount of
homework to be given and use a homework record booklet as a tracking mechanisms for both teachers
and parents alike.
2. Literature Review
Homework has always been associated with schools and it is part of students’ and teachers’ workload.
The basic purposes of assigning homework to students are the same as schooling in general, i.e. to
increase the knowledge and improve the abilities and skills of the student. Epstein (1983) summarizes
the following as the seven purposes of homework: for further practice, increased participation in the
learning process, personal development of the student, enhancing parent-child relations, effective
implementation of homework policy, improved public relationship and as a form of punishment (p.
27). In another article, Epstein, & Van Voorhis, (2001) suggested nine purposes that teachers should
consider in preparing and presenting homework to the students. First, students should understand that
homework is a valuable part of schooling. Second, homework allows students to practice what they
have learned in class besides extending as well as strengthening their work done in class. Thirdly,
homework trains the students to plan and organize their time properly. Besides that, homework also
helps students to develop a range of skills in identifying and using information resources. Other than
that, it establishes good study habits, helps students to focus and concentrate and develops self
discipline within students. Furthermore homework strengthens the links between homes and schools
other than provide parents with insight into what is being taught in the classroom as well as their
children’s progress in school. From these links, homework also helps to reaffirm the role of parents as
partners in education where teachers and parents will help each other in discussing the problem arising
regarding their children’s homework. Lastly, the most important thing is homework could provide
some challenges to the students especially to the gifted and talented students. Needlmen, (2001) adds
that homework may be intended to develop students in the traits of independence, responsibility, self-
motivation, and self-discipline. More specifically, homework assignments may be designed to
reinforce what students have already learned, prepare them for upcoming (or complex or difficult)
© Research Journal of Internatıonal Studıes - Issue 13 (March, 2010) 65
lessons, extend what they know by having them apply it to new situations, or to integrate their abilities
by applying many different skills to a single task
Numerous studies conducted by researchers (Cooper, 1989; Betts, 1996; Cooper, Jackson &
Nye, 2001; Dandy & Nettelbeck, 2002) note that the effect of homework on student achievement has
been a debatable issue since the beginning of the twentieth century and continue well into the twenty-
first century. Therefore it is not surprising that public attitude towards homework has been shifting
from positive to negative and vice versa over the past twenty years or so. For instance, Cooper et al.,
(1998) conducted an extensive meta-analysis of research of close to 120 empirical studies of
homework and the characteristics of successful homework assignments. The findings from the study
revealed that an average high school student in a class doing homework would outperform 75% of the
students in a no-homework class. In junior high school, the average homework effect was half this
magnitude. In elementary school, homework had very little effect on achievement gains. Walberg,
Paschal and Weinstein (1985) contend that homework is beneficial because it extends the school day.
They hypothesize that if typical American students added four hours of homework per week to 30
nominal hours of school work, they would have added 13 percent to their nominal learning time in
school they however stress that one thing widely recognized about effective schooling is that “time-on-
task” predicts how much is learned and add that though time is by no means the only ingredient of
learning, without it, little can be learned (Walberg, Paschal & Weinstein, 1985). Hughes &
Greenhough (2002) further call attention to the fact that it is not the quantity of homework that
determines the contribution to learning but the nature and quality of the homework assignments that
determines the educational value of homework.
On the other hand, there is also no denying that homework has had its equal share of negative
connotations. Painter (1999) make the salient point that both teachers and students are known to just
‘glaze over’ homework assignments and for some they are just going through the motion. Critics of
homework say that too much of homework overburdens children and can adversely affect a child's
development by cutting in on leisure time and creating tension in the home. Cooper (1989) reiterates
that sometimes homework is the culprit of both physical and emotional stress as too much homework is
counteractive and can result in students’ loss of interest in academic materials and for some students
being forced to complete homework leads to more cheating. Widdup, (2008) reported in The London
Evening Standard that Ofsted inspectors in the UK noted that extra evening homework made learning
depressing for children and they highlight that students must have more recreational time to watch
educational television programmes, listen to music, play games or focus on other extra-curricular
Kralovec and Buell (2001) refer to homework as a “black hole” highlighting that homework is
of little value and should be eliminated as reviews of research on homework often contradict each
other, and most researchers now concede that homework does not improve academic achievement for
elementary students. They also point out that the trouble with existing research is that it focuses too
narrowly on academic achievements and ignores the context of students’ home lives and family
relationships. Silvis (2002) further reiterates that students must balance family time with parents’ work
demands or family responsibilities, such as care for siblings or work to contribute to the family’s
income. Other students have extracurricular activities or just prefer time to dawdle and dream.
Furthermore, the notion that homework develops traits like self-discipline and time management lacks
solid evidence, and parents are asked to take on faith the idea that homework can instil these desirable
character traits (Kralovec & Buell, 2001).
Schools in developed countries like the UK and the USA are now cutting down on homework
and some are even looking into abolishing it altogether. Keates (2007) reported that in the UK schools
are looking into their homework policies by limiting the amount of homework or eliminating it
altogether in lower grades as several new books and studies have documented the negative effects of
too much homework and found no corresponding improvement in academic performance. The deputy
general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers in the UK, Martin Johnson, (Widdup,
© Research Journal of Internatıonal Studıes - Issue 13 (March, 2010) 66
2008) has called for an end to homework in primary schools and a scaling-back at secondary level. He
said homework had been "mindlessly lauded by successive governments and pushy parents" and some
homework assignments are ‘mechanistic and repetitive’ discouraging ‘free range research’ and
‘independent learning skills’ which today’s global markets are looking for.
Keates (2007) stresses that all these have brought about a sea of change and educationists like
Denise Pope from Stanford University and the director of SOS (Stressed Out Students) notes that
homework is a key component of stress among school students. Therefore he recommends that
students be given fewer problems for homework if there is an overlap of exercises teachers should give
pupils the freedom to choose which problems to review, rather than assign all "drill and kill" problems.
He also encourages teachers to mix exercises that “force students to think at a higher level."
Adding on to this discourse, Sullivan and Sequeira (1996) urge teachers to consider the
following factors when assigning homework to their classes: i.e. age of students, community and
family needs, and school goals. They also offer these time guidelines to consider for different grade
levels. Students in Grades 1 to 3 should have one to three assignments per week, each taking 15
minutes. Those in Grades 4 to 6 should have two to four assignments per week, requiring 15-45
minutes each. Students in Grades 7 to 9 should have three to five assignments per week, lasting 45-75
minutes each, and those in Grades 10-12 should have four to five assignments per week, requiring 75-
120 minutes each. Another research conducted by Cooper (2007) put forward the "10-minute rule"- i.e.
assigning 10-minutes of homework per day per grade-level. Under this system, 1st-graders would
receive 10-minutes of homework per night, while 5th-graders would get 50-minutes worth, 9th-graders
90-minutes of homework.`
Furthermore, Marzano, Pickering & Pollock (2001) recommend that the amount of homework
assigned should be different from elementary school to middle school to high school. Many national
groups of teachers and parents, including the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) of United
States, suggest that homework for children in kindergarten through second grade is most effective
when it does not exceed 10-20 minutes each day. In third through sixth grade, children can benefit
from 30-60 minutes of homework per day. For these young children, research shows that shorter and
more frequent assignments may be more effective than longer but fewer assignments. This is because
young children have short spans of attention and need to feel they have successfully completed a task.
Junior high and high school students can benefit from more time on homework, and the amount may
vary from night to night. Reading at home is especially important for young children. High-interest
reading assignments might push the time on homework a bit beyond the minutes suggested above.
These recommendations are consistent with the conclusions reached by many studies (Butler, 1987;
Cooper, 2000; Cooper, 2006; BBC, 2007; Duke, 2007) on the effectiveness of homework for older and
younger children. Cooper (as cited in Silvis, 2002) offers the following tips for teachers to consider
when assigning homework:
1. Give the right amount of homework. Students should get about 10 minutes of homework
each night for each grade. Do not overload them.
2. Keep parents informed. Let them know the purpose of homework and the class rules
regarding it. Communicate clearly that homework is an important bridge between home and
3. Vary the kinds of homework given. Practice the skills learned, but also assign activities that
apply the learned skills.
4. Be careful about parent involvement. Consider the time and resources of the parents.
5. Never give homework as punishment. This implies that the teacher thinks schoolwork is
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3. The Study
Within the Malaysian context, since the implementation of the 2004 guidelines on homework by the
Ministry of Education, there has not been a holistic study on the organization of homework. There has
been only one study by North and Pillay (2002) which explored homework assignments in 88
Malaysian secondary schools in the English language classrooms. The results showed a mismatch
between expectations of both teachers and students. This current study however looks into the
teachers’ perspectives and practices in the organisation of homework in Malaysian primary classrooms.
The study explored various aspects of the organisation of homework such as teachers’ purpose for
assigning homework, the types, frequency and amount of homework teachers assigned to pupils and
the overall management of homework.
The subjects of the study comprised 297 primary school teachers from 17 schools located in the
following six states in Peninsular Malaysia – Kelantan, Terengganu, Melaka Selangor, Pulau Pinang
and Negeri Sembilan. The 17 schools in this study comprised 13 National Primary Schools (herein
referred to as SK - Sekolah Kebangsaan) and four (4) National Type Chinese Schools (herein referred
to as SJKC - Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Cina). The study involved the use of three main instruments–
i.e. questionnaires, semi-structured interviews and document analysis. In this study the Teacher
Questionnaire was divided into four main sections – i.e. Section A, Section B, Section C and Section
D. Section A investigated respondents’ demographic profile whilst Section B looked into the
organization of homework where respondents were required to indicate their responses based on a
four-point Likert scale, i.e. 1 = Strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = agree and 4 = strongly disagree.
Section C consisting of 16 items, explored teachers’ overall perceptions of homework and Section D
consisted of 6 open ended questions. The Teacher Questionnaire revealed a high (.91) Cronbach Alpha
Reliability. Interviews were also conducted to triangulate data collected from the questionnaire. In each
selected state, 4 teachers (2 Primary Three and 2 Primary Five) were interviewed. The teachers were
teaching the following subjects: Bahasa Malaysia, English, Science, Math or Mandarin. Document
analysis looked into the homework diaries and books of Primary Three and Primary Five pupils for the
five core subjects tested for the Year Six UPSR Examination (Bahasa Malaysia, English, Science,
Math and Mandarin).
All the instruments were pilot tested before the actual field work was carried out. The pilot test
was carried out in a primary school in Shah Alam by using a homogeneous group of respondents as
identified in the real study. Quantitative data was analysed by using SPSS package (version 14.0) to
calculate percentages, means and standard deviations while the qualitative data was analysed both
inductively and deductively to identify the main themes that emerged based on the research questions
posed in this study.
4. Findings and Discussions
The study involved a total of 297 teachers of which 77.2% were females while the remaining 22.8%
were males. A majority (46.1%) of the respondents’ age ranged from 30-39 years old whilst 24.9%
were below the 40-49 years old age range. Besides that, 33.3% of the teacher respondents possess an
SPM/MCE qualification while 29.7% were Diploma holders. With regard to experience, the data
indicated that 83.3% of the respondents have had more than five years teaching experience therefore
categorizing them as quite knowledgeable in their profession and suitable candidates for this study.
4.1. Importance of Homework
One of the main questions put forward to teachers was their opinion on homework. All the teachers
interviewed viewed homework in a positive and favourable light. They all agreed that homework was
an important component in classroom learning and should not be abolished. They highlighted that
homework was seen as an extension of classroom learning and it gave pupils the chance to consolidate
classroom learning. Teachers stressed that homework also gave them the chance to extend upon
© Research Journal of Internatıonal Studıes - Issue 13 (March, 2010) 68
classroom learning. A majority were also of the opinion that homework given should not burden the
pupils and ideally homework given should be suitable and be assigned based on pupils’ potential and
capability. The teachers also reiterated that the circular on homework was timely as it gave more
structure to the implementation of homework practices in the Malaysian public schools.
4.2. Purpose for Assigning Homework
One of the main aspects investigated in this study was the teachers’ aim or purpose for assigning
homework to their pupils. The findings (Table 1) indicated that the three main reasons teachers
assigned homework was to provide practice of what been learnt (mean=3.58, SD=0.564), to obtain
feedback on pupils’ strengths and weaknesses (mean=3.45, SD=0.596) and to improve pupils’ study
habits (mean=3.37, SD=0.494). The findings also revealed that homework is given to encourage
autonomous learning as an average mean of above 3.00 was seen in items such as encouraging pupils
to be more independent learners (mean=3.25, SD=0.477), encouraging individual development
(mean=3.24, SD=0.523) and providing a more individualized programme of learning (mean=3.14,
The results also indicated that the least preferred reasons for giving homework was to keep
pupils occupied so that teachers will have time to do administration work (mean=2.01, SD=0.869),
enable the teacher to complete the syllabus (mean=2.53, SD=0.694) and to provide evidence of the
teacher’s hard work (mean=2.55, SD=0.746). The findings indicated that teachers in this study gave
homework for valid and justifiable reasons and there seems to be no signs of abuse in giving
homework throughout the primary schools.
Reasons for Giving Homework (n=297)
Reasons for giving homework
To practice what has just been learnt
To obtain feedback on pupils’ strengths and weaknesses
To improve pupils’ study habits
To encourage pupils to be more independent learners
To encourage individual development
To enhance pupils’ academic achievement
To provide information to parents on pupils’ progress
To provide a more individualized programme of learning
To develop pupils time management skills
To motivate pupils to pay attention in class
To complete work started in class
To reprimand pupils for poor work in class
To meet school requirements on recordkeeping
To meet society’s expectations of what a teacher should do
To provide evidence of the teacher’s hard work
To enable the teacher to complete the syllabus
To keep pupils occupied so that teachers will have time to do school
Scale: 1= Strongly Disagree, 2=Disagree, 3=Agree, 4= Strongly Agree
Interview sessions with teachers corroborated these findings as a majority of the teachers made
the salient point that homework was an effective mechanism for monitoring student learning. It
provided teachers feedback on the both the strengths and weakness of their pupils on a particular topic.
Close to 80% of the teachers interviewed pointed out that since classroom teaching time was limited,
homework was seen as a means to provide pupils with more practice to enhance and consolidate
pupils’ understanding of lessons learnt in class. This was succinctly put across by an English Language
teacher in a SK school in Selangor. She highlighted that the main purpose of homework was to ‘make
sure pupils spent time looking at lessons taught in class so that they have a better understanding of
© Research Journal of Internatıonal Studıes - Issue 13 (March, 2010) 69
what they have learnt.” Another Math teacher from a SJKC school in Kelantan pointed out that
homework was way to “ensure pupils practice what they have learnt in school.” She stressed that
subjects like Math required practice and due to limited classroom time pupils had to be given
homework for more practice. A Science teacher from a SK school in Penang added that homework was
also “a good way to get pupils to be disciplined”. She further elaborated that homework kept pupils
focussed on learning and sometimes it can be seen as a “means of keeping them away from undesirable
activities”. In her opinion, “young pupils should be kept occupied so they will know the importance of
study and develop good habits.” On the whole teachers interviewed emphasized that homework was an
integral part of the learning process and appropriate measures could be taken by teachers to either
further enhance pupils’ understanding via enrichment or remedial exercises.
4.3. Types of Homework Assignments
According to La Conte (1981) homework assignments can be divided into three main – i.e. for
preparation, for practice and for extension assignments. Findings in this study (Table 2) indicated that
the most common type of homework assignments were practice based tasks. Such homework
assignments included getting pupils to do corrections (mean= 3.90, SD=.905), enrichment activities
(mean=3.75, SD=0.733) and remedial exercises (mean=3.66, SD=0.766). Another common homework
assignment was centred on memorization activities such as spelling and dictation (mean=3.61,
SD=.916) and memorising facts and formulae (mean=3.59, SD=.894).
Teachers revealed that the least favoured homework assignment given by them was getting
pupils to prepare posters/pamphlets (mean=2.42, SD=0.997). Other homework tasks that fell under the
“very seldom” category were activities which required pupils to conduct research on a topic
(mean=2.61, SD=1.114), group projects (mean=2.87, SD=0.981) and individual projects (mean=2.94,
Types of Homework Assignments
How often do you give the following types of homework assignments?
Doing enrichment exercises
Doing remedial exercises
Learning Spelling and Dictation
Doing extension activities
Practising new formula/ concept/ vocabulary
Doing individual projects
Doing group projects
Doing research on a topic
Preparing posters/ pamphlets
Scale: 1= Never, 2=Very Seldom, 3=Seldom, 4= Often. 5= Very Often
These findings were further supported by data obtained from the interview sessions with
teachers. The English language teachers interviewed revealed that the most common activities that they
gave their pupils were practice grammar exercises and spelling and dictation activities. Therefore doing
corrections for incorrect items was a usual practice for most teachers. They also pointed out that
writing sentences and doing reading comprehension activities were also homework assignments that
they often gave their pupils.
On the other hand, the Bahasa Malaysia teachers disclosed that the most common homework
assignment given was for further practice and it included homework tasks such as grammar exercises
followed by makings sentences. Writing short guided composition was a favourite activity for the
© Research Journal of Internatıonal Studıes - Issue 13 (March, 2010) 70
Primary 5 teachers whilst copying sample compositions was a common activity given by teachers
teaching pupils in Primary 3.
Math teachers interviewed admitted that getting their pupils to do further exercises for practice
and reinforcement was the main type of homework assignment that they gave their pupils. The same
sentiment was also shared by the teachers teaching Mandarin. The Mandarin teachers stressed that they
gave their pupils homework everyday. Homework tasks included copying paragraphs to enhance their
writing skills and grammar based activities to reinforcement lessons learnt in class. Memorisation and
practice writing were also common homework tasks meted out by teachers teaching Mandarin.
Document analysis further revealed that the type of homework given by language teachers was
more or else similar. Both Bahasa Malaysia and English Language teachers often gave their pupils
practice exercises which consisted of grammar based exercises and reading comprehension exercises.
Another common type of homework assignment given by language teachers was the preparation tasks
which consisted of memorising activities like spelling and dictation. Pupils also were involving in
copying activities. Bahasa Malaysia and Mandarin language teachers were seen to more often than not
getting their pupils to copy sample sentences and essays from the book or blackboard when compared
to English language teachers. Nevertheless English Language teachers gave fewer compositions as
compared to Bahasa Malaysia and Mandarin teachers. In comparison to the language teachers
Mandarin teachers were seen to be giving more homework for practice in writing. The grammar
exercises given by language teachers were more often for enrichment and practice. Document analysis
further revealed that Math teachers usually gave Math problems for further practice on a daily basis.
Document analysis also indicated that project work was hardly visible though activities like
locating and getting pictures of related items was most commonly seen in Science homework tasks.
Group based activities like preparing portfolios was seen only in subjects like English, Science, Living
Skills and Moral Education. Such activities are actually exercises categorized under the Higher Order
Thinking Skills (HOTS) that should be cultivated among pupils. Most of the homework currently being
given out to pupils merely addresses the Lower Order Thinking Skills (LOTS). Therefore, a balance
between both skills should be maintained in order to promote creative and critical thinking among the
Respondents were also asked if they assigned the same homework to all pupils at the same
level. Data obtained from interviews and document analyses indicated that teachers assigned the same
homework to a whole class and did not take into consideration the ability of the pupils within a class.
Nevertheless some teachers divulged that they did take into consideration the level of the class when
assigning homework. For instance, a math teacher from a SK school in Terengganu pointed out that
she usually gave less homework to the pupils in the weaker classes. She said ”for my better Year 5
Merah class I would give the pupils about 15 math problems to solve but for my weaker Year 5 Kuning
class, I would perhaps give them between 5 and 8 problems only for homework.” This was also echoed
by a number of other teachers and they added that pupils in the weaker classes were often given less
homework because ‘if too much homework was given they would not complete it.”
4.4. Frequency of Homework Assignments
Looking into the frequency of homework assignments, the findings from the Teacher Questionnaire
(Table 3) revealed that on the average a majority of teachers indicated that the frequency of homework
assignments given by them was at least twice a week (45.5%). This was followed by three times a
week (22.2%) whilst 14.5% revealed that they gave homework once a week. Nevertheless 9.7%
exhibited that they gave homework four times and week whilst another 7.4% indicated giving
homework more than four times. Only two admitted that they gave homework once a fortnight.
© Research Journal of Internatıonal Studıes - Issue 13 (March, 2010) 71
1x a fortnight
Teachers’ Perceptions on the Frequency of Homework (n=297)
1x a week
2x a week
3x a week
4x a week
More than 4x a week
The above findings were further substantiated by teachers during the interview sessions. A
large majority of the teachers revealed that they gave homework at least twice a week. A majority of
the English and Bahasa Malaysia language teachers usually gave homework twice a week and
sometimes three times a week.
A majority of Math teachers however emphasized that most of them gave homework at least
three to five times a week. A Math teacher from Penang has this to say:
“In mathematics, I believe practice makes perfect... so pupils should be given homework everyday. If
not it is very difficult..if there is no homework pupils will not do their revision on their own they are
still little children and children must be given work.. I also feel this homework everyday will help
pupils revise what is learnt in class... as Head of the Mathematics Panel, I always stress to my teachers
to give maths homework everyday or at least four times a week. I also give homework sometimes for
school holiday – if two weeks holiday I give them at least five pieces of homework – one week must
do maths – if not they will forget”
The Mandarin language teachers disclosed that on the average they also gave homework at least
four to five times a week. Science teachers informed that they usually gave homework at least once or
twice a week depending on the topic for the week. Document analysis exhibited that on the average
teachers in SKJC schools gave slightly more homework than teachers in SK schools. The results can be
seen in Table 4 below. On the average teachers in the SK schools give homework at least 2.3 times a
week. Math teachers give the most homework (4 times a week) whilst language teachers give
homework twice a week. On the average, Science teachers give homework at least once a week.
Document Analysis on the Frequency of Homework
homework & class work
1 Activity book
2 Exercise books
Bahasa Malaysia 2x a week
1 Activity Book
1 Revision Book
English 2x a week
2 Exercise books
1 Revision Book
1 Exercise book
1 Lab Book
1 Activity book
2 Exercise books
Math 4x a week
No of Books for
No of Books for
homework & class work
1 Activity book
1 Revision Book
2 Exercise books
1 Activity Book
2 Revision Books
2 Exercise books
1 Revision Book
1 Activity book
1 Exercise book
1 Lab Book
1 Activity book
2 Revision Books
2 Exercise books
1 Activity book
3 Revision Book
3 Exercise books
3x a week
3x a week
Science 1x a week 2x a week
5x a week
Mandarin - - 5x a week
Average 2.3x 2.6 books 3x
In contrast to this, teachers in SKJC schools gave on the average homework three times a week.
Teachers in these schools also gave more homework for all subjects in comparison to teachers in SK
schools. Teachers teaching Math and Mandarin gave homework everyday (5 times a week) whilst
© Research Journal of Internatıonal Studıes - Issue 13 (March, 2010) 72
English and Bahasa Malaysia language teachers gave on the average homework three times a week.
The Science teachers gave homework at least twice a week.
This was further confirmed from findings obtained from document analyses which revealed that
teachers in SJKC used more exercise books, workbooks and revision guide books when compared to
books used for homework by pupils in SK schools. For instance, on the average pupils in SK schools
used 3 books (1 Activity book and 2 exercise books) for Bahasa Malaysia whilst their counterparts in
SJKC used on the average four books (1 Activity book, 1 Revision Book & 2 Exercise books). Pupils
in SJKC used on the average 5 books for Math in comparison with pupils in SK that used only3 books.
On the whole it was also seen that pupils in SJKC schools were required to buy a number of
commercial revision books for extra practice. On the average pupils in SK schools used approximately
3 (2.6) books for each subject in comparison to pupils in SJKC used about 5 (4.8) books for homework
for each subject. The greater number of homework exercise books also indicates that teachers in SJKC
give more homework to their pupils in comparison to teachers teaching in SK schools.
4.5. Management of Homework
In December 2004, the Malaysian Ministry of Education (MOE) issued a circular that put forward 3
aspects of the organisation of homework in Malaysian public schools – i.e. the planning,
implementation and monitoring. Therefore, one of the first questions posed to teachers was to check
their awareness of the criteria set out by the Ministry of Education (MOE) regarding homework.
Results indicated that a majority (85.9%) of the teachers acknowledged that they were aware of
the circular and 42 out of the 297 respondents, (14.1%) admitted they were unaware of the contents of
the circular – i.e. the homework policy set by the Ministry and the standard criteria set by the Ministry
with regards to planning, implementing and monitoring homework in schools. Nevertheless a majority
(85%) agreed that homework given should not burden the pupils and ideally homework given should
be suitable and “according to pupils’ potential and capability”.
One aspect highlighted in the MOE circular was the planning of homework. Interviews with
teachers indicated that a majority of the Panel Heads in SK schools have stopped having meetings to
plan homework for each level and class. These teachers admitted that in 2005 when the circular was
first implemented, school administrators – i.e. the School Head, Senior Assistant and the Panel Heads
had regular meetings to ensure all teachers planned the homework given based on the ability of their
pupils. A few teachers highlighted that they were required to list the homework given for the day on
the blackboard so that other teachers will be aware of the amount of homework that had been given to
the pupils for the day. A Math teacher from a SK school in Selangor had this to say:
“When the circular was first implemented my school head regularly entered our classroom to check on
the homework given to pupils. He checked the pupils’ books and went round initialling pupils books.
He also ensured all teachers wrote the homework given for the day on the blackboard... The Senior
Assistant and the Panel heads also regularly collected pupils’ books for checking purposes. Now in
2008, nobody cares what is going on. Teachers do not discuss who is giving homework for the day. So
it is not surprising someday the pupils may have no homework whilst on other days they may be
burdened with homework for 5 subjects. I feel implementation and monitoring has taken a back seat.”
Interviews with teachers in the SJKC schools however, drew a more positive response. These
teachers pointed out that their school heads still ensured homework was given on a regular basis and all
teachers communicated with each other with regards to homework given for the day. A majority also
listed homework assignments for the day either on the blackboard or in a book placed on the teacher’s
table. Teachers also highlighted that in some schools the homework for the day was recorded on a chart
/ board at the back of the class.
Interviews also revealed that in most schools, pupils are required to keep a homework diary.
Teachers stressed that though this was one of the step taken by most schools as a result of the MOE
circular, the use of the homework diary left much to be desired. Close to 56.7% of the teacher
respondents affirm that it is a requirement for the pupils in their schools to keep a homework
© Research Journal of Internatıonal Studıes - Issue 13 (March, 2010) 73
diary/notebook. A large majority (88.7%) highlighted that they encouraged their pupils to keep a
homework diary/notebook. The following are some of the teachers’ responses as to why pupils should
be encouraged to maintain a homework diary/notebook:
• Yes, so that they will not forget to do their homework
• Yes, as a reminder for them what needs to be done
• Yes, to avoid pupils from forgetting their homework as most pupils give some reasons for
not doing their homework
• The pupils can remember better and it encourages pupils to be more independent
• So that they can refer to it every time before going to school the next day. To ensure that
they will always do their homework.
• For their parents to check on them and for them to refer.
• Because sometimes pupils forget their homework.
The findings of this study indicated that approximately 26.5% of the schools involved in this
study had homework diaries for their pupils. Teachers emphasized that the homework diary was a
means for them to ensure homework was given in a more structured manner taking into consideration
the type of homework, the amount of homework for the day and the ability of the pupils. According to
a Bahasa Malaysia teacher from a SK school in Penang, the homework diary was also a means of
communication between teachers, parents and pupils. She drew attention to the fact that the homework
diary ‘’brought into the picture the important role of parents in their child’s learning process.”
Nevertheless interview sessions revealed that in schools with no homework dairies there were some
teachers who had on their own encouraged their pupils to keep homework dairy.
Data obtained via the teacher questionnaire presented in Table 5 also revealed that the
communication between the teachers and parents is at a minimum level of 70.3% (sometimes) while
only 10.5% of the teachers communicate with the parents at regular intervals (often). A total of 18.7%
of the teachers never communicate with the parents in relation to their children’s homework. This
clearly indicates the communication between parents and teachers in relation to pupils’ homework
leaves much to be desired.
Teachers’ Management of Pupils’ Homework (n=297)
Management of Homework Never
Pupils know what they have to do
Teacher has to remind the pupils
Teacher communicates with parents
Teacher check pupils’ homework
Teacher marks pupils’ homework
Pupils mark their own/peers’ homework
Scale: 1= Never, 2=Very Seldom, 3=Seldom, 4= Often. 5= Very Often
Further investigation into pupils’ homework diaries revealed that in about 25% of the schools in
this study the use of the homework diary did not monitor it effectively. Here again findings disclosed
that the SJKC schools did a better job at monitoring pupil’s homework diaries compared to homework
dairies kept by pupils in SK schools. Nevertheless, in some schools, pupils diligently wrote their
homework assignments for the first few months but by May a large majority had either stopped or
forgotten to write it down on a regular basis. This suggests that both parents and teachers did not
effectively monitor pupils’ maintenance of the homework diary.
© Research Journal of Internatıonal Studıes - Issue 13 (March, 2010) 74
Therefore, it was not surprising to note that 82.7% of the total teacher respondents in this study
stressed that they had to remind pupils about the homework that they had been assigned to them. The
respondents also felt that only 68.2% of the pupils often knew and understood what they had to do.
According to them another 30.4% knew sometimes whilst 1.4% of their pupils never knew what had to
be done for homework. This signifies that pupils are not very well informed or guided as to what is
required by them for homework.
A large majority of the teachers (94.7%) emphasized that that they often checked their pupils’
homework. Respondents were also asked how often they marked their pupils’ homework and how
often they got their pupils to do peer marking. In relation to the first question, a total of 94.7%
respondents stated that they marked their pupils’ homework on a regular basis and only 5.3% of them
concurred that they only mark their pupils’ work sometimes. It was also found that only 31.9% of the
respondents often asked their pupils to mark their own/peers’ homework while 54.9% agreed that they
sometimes ask the pupils to do this. The other 13.2% of the respondents never asked the pupils to
either self access or conduct peer assessment.
Interview sessions and document analysis indicated that Math teachers marked pupils’
homework most regularly (between three to four times in a week) in comparison to language and
Science teachers. Math teachers were also the ones who in most instances encouraged their pupils to
self mark or conduct peer evaluation. As such they only collected books to check /monitor pupils’
completed homework activities.
Among the language teachers, the Mandarin teachers often marked pupils’ homework and on
the average these teachers marked pupils’ homework three to four times a week. Both Bahasa Malaysia
and English Language teachers acknowledged that they either marked /checked the pupils’ homework
once or twice a week. Most of the Science teachers pointed out that they marked at least once a week
but document analysis indicated otherwise. On the average Science teachers marked / checked their
pupils’ homework once a fortnight. Document analysis also indicated that a science teacher from a SK
school in Kelantan had not marked or checked the pupils’ books for the last two months. Similarly a
Bahasa Malaysia teacher from Melaka had not marked her pupils’ homework for the last one month.
Both this instances indicate that proper monitoring mechanisms need to be put in place.
With regards to monitoring, teachers highlighted that the school authorities ensured teachers
gave homework and written work on a regular basis. This was usually conducted during the checking
of books. Interview sessions revealed that it was a common practice in Malaysian public schools that
school administrators (senior academic assistant and panel heads) checked pupils’ exercise books twice
a year. Document analyses revealed that books in SJKC were checked on a more regular basis (2 to
three times a year) compared to the SK schools (at least once). Here again school administrators in
SJKC schools checked all pupils’ books but in most SK schools, books were only randomly selected
and checked. Interview sessions further indicated that during the checking process, the school
administrators would look into aspects such as frequency of work given, duration taken to mark/grade
the assignments, type of feedback and follow-up on comments given by teachers.
A cursory analysis of feedback on written assignments indicated that a large majority of
teachers marked pupils’ work using a red pen. They usually initialled their name and put down the date
the assignment was marked. Some teachers provided feedback using grades (e.g. A+, A, A-) whilst
others preferred giving marks and percentages. Only a small minority resorted to written comments.
Examples of favourable comments were, ‘good’, ‘excellent work’ and ‘keep up the good work’ whilst
the unfavourable comments included the following: “complete your work!”, ‘do your corrections!”,
“lazy!’ and “incomplete work.”
Interview sessions revealed that teachers felt that what they were doing for homework was
sufficient. A large majority emphasized that homework was not an important concern in their schools.
According to an English Language teacher in a SK school in Selangor, the school authorities were
more concerned ‘with pupils’ performance especially the UPSR Examination,” and aspects such as
homework had taken a back seat.
© Research Journal of Internatıonal Studıes - Issue 13 (March, 2010) 75
The main aim of this study was to investigate teachers’ perspectives and practices in the organisation
of homework in Malaysian primary schools. The study which involved 297 teachers from 17 primary
schools in Malaysia indicated that on the whole teachers have a positive opinion of homework. They
give homework for valid and justifiable reasons and view homework as a means of enhancing
classroom learning. Homework provided further practice of lessons learnt and is seen as a means of
obtaining feedback on pupils’ learning strengths and weaknesses. More importantly homework is
assigned to improve pupils’ study habits, instil self discipline and encourage autonomous learning.
La Conte (1981) put forward the following three categories of homework assignments: for
preparation, for practice and for extension assignments. The findings in this study revealed that
teachers assigned homework mainly for practice and a majority of them are still assigning low level
homework assignments involving mainly practice based exercises, such as doing corrections and
conducting memorization activities such as spelling and dictation and memorising facts and formulae.
Teachers seldom get their pupils involved in real life learning activities that consists of higher order
thinking challenging tasks such as conducting research on a topic (mean=2.61) or working
collaboratively in group projects (mean=2.87). This study also exhibited that teachers hardly gave
homework assignments for preparation and extension activities. In fact document analysis of pupils’
homework diaries revealed that there were no reading assignments given to pupils. This should be a
matter of concern as studies have indicated that on the average Malaysians read only two books a year
(Malaysian National Library Report, 2003). Furthermore,
With regards to frequency and amount of homework, teachers in SJKC schools assigned more
homework compared to their counterparts in SK schools. However in both types of schools, Math and
Mandarin teachers gave more homework compared to teachers teaching other subjects. In SJKC
schools teachers teaching Math and Mandarin gave homework everyday (5 times a week) whilst
English and Bahasa Malaysia language teachers gave on the average homework three times a week.
Consequently, teachers in SJKC schools use more exercise books, workbooks and revision guide books
for homework assignments compared to those in the SK schools. Furthermore, findings showed that
teachers did not take into consideration the varying abilities of their pupils within a class when
assigning homework. Nevertheless, teachers added that they often gave less homework to pupils in the
weaker classes as they were afraid that these pupils may not be able to complete their work on their
own. Researchers like Hughes and Greenhouse (2002) stress that teachers’ response to diversity in the
classroom should be addressed as pupils in a class vary not only in their abilities but also having access
to resources outside school and at home. They highlight that when teachers set homework for a class,
they more often than not assign homework for the ‘bottom’ group or ‘can do’ homework because they
do not want their pupils to fail. In such a situation the good and the average set of pupils are not
challenged and homework assignments result in little learning for them.
With regards to the planning of homework, findings exhibited that school curriculum
committees involved in this study did not adhere to the guidelines laid out in the Ministry of Education
circular on homework. Even though a majority of the teachers claimed that they distributed homework
evenly throughout the year, teachers’ practices indicated otherwise. Findings conveyed that there is
little communication between teachers teaching at each level and therefore homework was assigned
based on an ad hoc basis. Subsequently, pupils had 4-5 homework assignments on one particular day
and only one or no homework assignments for the next day. Non-compliance to the circular has
resulted in teachers not having a clear schedule to ensure a truly balanced distribution of homework for
each class for each day in the week. Such a scenario perhaps requires school / educational authorities to
put into place more effective mechanisms in order to ensure schools abide by the government
homework guidelines issued to schools.
It is however, heartening to note that the monitoring of teachers to ensure teachers mark work
assigned to pupils is in place. A majority of the teachers acknowledged the fact that the school
administrators made it a point to collect and check pupils’ work not only to ensure pupils did their
© Research Journal of Internatıonal Studıes - Issue 13 (March, 2010) 76
work but also to ensure teachers gave written work on a regular basis and they marked and graded
pupils’ assignments. Here again a more stringent practice was observed in SJKC schools compared to
practices in SK schools. Feedback provided to pupils on their written assignments however need to be
more constructive as current practices reveal that most teachers opt to either grade or just initial and
date the assignment.
Findings also indicated that teachers held positive views with regards to pupils maintaining a
homework diary as a majority felt it helped pupils to manage homework effectively. Approximately
26.5% of the schools involved in this study had homework diaries but the implementation and
monitoring of the homework diaries left much to be desired. Document investigations revealed that
pupils were not consistent in recording their homework assignments and teachers did not monitor
pupils’ homework diaries. Some teachers viewed this outside their job description while others cited
time constraints as the main cause. In such a situation it is perhaps justifiable that parents’ aid be
sought so that they can be involved in checking and monitoring their children’s homework diaries.
Another matter of concern uncovered by this study was the communication between teachers
and parents with regards to homework. Only 10.4% of the teachers communicated with parents whilst
close to 20% of the teachers never communicated. This indicates that parents are very much left out of
the homework loop. It is therefore pertinent that the relevant school authorities take the necessary steps
to get parents involved in the learning process of their children. Moreover, teachers need to include
more fun and engaging homework assignments which call for more peer, family and parental
To conclude, it is perhaps interesting to note that while in the west (especially the UK) the
debate to abolish and to scale down homework for the elementary schools is ongoing, the issue of
homework continues to remain an important and relevant aspect in Malaysian primary schools.
Teachers in this study did not agree that homework should be abolished and a large majority viewed it
favorably as they saw the potential of homework. They see homework as a worthwhile extension to
classroom learning and a means of not only providing feedback on pupils’ strengths and weaknesses
but also helps in instilling self-discipline among young learners. Nevertheless, there are certain issues
with regards to the planning, implementation and management of homework that ought to be
addressed. Teachers need to keep in mind that the quality of homework assignments should take
precedence over quantity of homework so that pupils do not view homework as a burden. Homework
assignments should take into account varying pupils’ abilities and homework tasks should be fun,
stimulating and engaging so that real learning can take place and the true benefits of homework can be
reaped by the pupils.
© Research Journal of Internatıonal Studıes - Issue 13 (March, 2010) 77
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