Professor calls for hair-dye science and plumber maths

Professor Alan Smithers from the university of Buckingham
Professor Alan Smithers from the university of Buckingham

An education specialist has called for more real-life practical teaching to give students the incentive to complete homework.

Professor Alan Smithers told the Sunday Times that young Brits need to do more homework to catch up their better-performing counterparts in the Far East.

He wants to see all pupils doing at least 90 minutes of homework each weeknight.

But Mr Smithers, from the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University of Buckingham, thinks the gap can only be narrowed if pupils see the longer-term benefits.

He said: “The government want young people to keep taking maths until they have it – that seems like torture.

“The answer is to build the maths into the area that they want to go into.

“Teach water and gas levels and trigonometry to plumbers. Science can be taught to hairdressers as there are all sorts of dangerous chemicals they use to make hair colours.

“I believe the vast majority of children are rational. If they can see the benefits they will do it – but if they can’t, what’s the incentive?

“If you don’t think you are going to need the skills from homework, you are not going to bother, I don’t think. A lot of young people can’t see where school is taking them.”

Mr Smithers’ comments come after international research found a clear link between time spent on homework and better grades.

It found British teenagers spend less than five hours a week doing homework compared to the 13.8 hours Chinese teenagers.

Brits spend the same amount of hours on homework as the international average but only placed 26th out of 65 in the table – which is based on results in the so-called PISA test. China came top, Singapore placed second and Hong Kong were third.