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Russian lessons;Letter

UNLIKE your correspondent, we did not find the apparent failure to establish a link between primary homework and academic performance in England to be particularly "startling".

The key issue, however, concerns not the amount of homework that is set but rather, how it relates to classroom learning. Too often, homework in England takes the form of discrete, bolt-on activities that have little meaningful correspondence with schoolday activities.

In comparison, homework in many successful countries is central to the operation of classwork. In our studies of Russian education, for example, we have noted the heavy demands of junior school lessons in which challenging ideas, principles, skills and concepts are introduced into each lesson. Opportunities to practise and reinforce this learning is largely the preserve of homework that may often take two or three hours to complete each evening.

Children know that their learning will be assessed during their next lesson and that their homework is intended to be an essential preparation for this. Within this set-up, children understand that, if they do not "keep up", they will "fall behind". Strong teacher, peer and parental pressures ensure that this is generally perceived to be highly undesirable.

Professor Julian Elliot Neil Hufton School of Education University of Sunderland

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