The question of who invented homework and why is one probably all students have angrily pondered on at one time or another. After a long day at school, students struggle to find a balance between time for homework, extracurricular activities, and social and family time. A whole subculture spawned, for creative excuses to justify not completing homework! 

In this article, we look to take you on a journey of uncovering who invented homework, why it was created, and how it changed over time. Next, we discuss some of the pros and cons of homework, and we ask the question – Does Homework help? We will be looking at this from the varying perspectives of students, teachers, the school, and the government. Finally, we look at the future of homework and how it is changing and will continue to do so for the generations of students ahead. 

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Who Invented Homework?

Who Invented Homework: The general consensus

The misleading knowledge regarding this is that homework was invented by a man named Roberto Nevilis. He was a teacher based in Venice, Italy. He claimed to have invented homework in 1905 as a punishment for students whose performance wasn’t up to the expected standards. However, there isn’t any credible information that supports this claim. 

Who Invented Homework: The truth

The truth is that homework existed dating back to the most ancient civilizations and around the time when the concept of education was taking form. 

So, while we perhaps will never know the identity of the teacher who invented homework, we can safely credit Johann Gottlieb Fichte, a German philosopher, and Horace Mann, an American politician, and educational reformer, for doing homework what it is today. 

Why was Homework Invented?

In the 18th century, the German Kingdom of Prussia faced a problem with inspiring a sense of nationalist pride in its citizens. Fichte then created the Volkschule – a compulsory nine-year education program required to be attended by all citizens. Those attending were given the homework we know today as a way to show off the state’s power. It is wicked and unsettling to think that homework was invented to subdue people and keep them in line with governmental interests. 

The system spread across Europe but wasn’t adopted everywhere. Countries like Finland don’t impose homework on their students. In 1843, Horace Mann reformed public education in the United States. Taking a trip to Prussia, he was impressed by their educational system and homework practice. Thus, homework eventually evolved into global practice.

How did homework change gradually over time?

 The early 1900s

A few decades after homework found its way into American Schools, it began having a turbulent time finding acceptance. Several schools began dropping homework from their systems. This move was led by The Ladies’ Home Journal magazine and backed up by medical professionals and doctors who testified against homework, saying it was harmful to a kid’s health. And in 1901, a law was passed, banning all homework for kids in kindergarten through eighth grade and imposing limits on the amount of homework for high school students.

 Homework = Child Labor?!

In 1930, the American Child Health Association went to the length of declaring homework as a form of child labor! Imagine that. The real reason why homework was being frowned upon so intensely was that it kept children away from helping with household chores. Encouraged by progressive educational reforms, teachers began to find ways to make homework assignments personal and relevant to student interests. One way was to ask students to write on topics like – “What I want to be when I grow up.” 

 The Fifties

The USA government revoked the homework ban in the 1950s. Politicians and educators felt that the need of the hour was for their country to produce a well-educated, skilled workforce. This was due to pressures emerging from the tense feelings surrounding the Cold War with Russia. To implement strict homework policies in American schools to ensure that the academic level would be higher than that of their Russian counterparts, especially in the math and science departments. 

 The Eighties – A Nation at Risk 

In the 1980s, ‘A Nation at Risk’ was published. It was a milestone report by The National Commission of Excellence in Education. It described how America’s educational system was failing to educate students well. Also, it recommended that schools become more rigorous and that they adopt new standards.  Assigning more homework to high school students was also one of the recommendations.

 Present Day

The pandemic had a devastating impact on schools and the education system. Students had to spend all day at home learning online. The question about the effectiveness of homework is more relevant than ever. There is a growing movement to reduce the harmful effects of homework. To evolve the way the homework is assigned by teachers and the way students use their time after class in constructive, self-motivated learning practices. 

Today, the movement against homework is gathering momentum again. Many educators, students, parents, and concerned citizens ask what the value of homework is.

Some impactive books written on this topic are: 


Indeed, there are some advantages to homework? 


Who Invented Homework: The Pros


  • Homework inculcates habit formation and teaches discipline and time management. These soft skills are required long-term to build consistent, good habits. Completing daily homework tasks within a specific duration is an intelligent way to reinforce discipline and habit building. Teachers and parents can play a valuable role here in guiding students on how to build an organized routine to use their after-school time effectively.
  • It provides teachers with a measurement of their students’ learning. It gives teachers a sense of how much or how little of their content students have understood. They can then determine which students need additional help understanding concepts and take action accordingly. 
  • It is an excellent medium for continued learning. It can reinforce what has been taught in class that day. To ensure that learning continues outside the classroom for difficult-to-grasp topics. These may require repetition and revision for the student to grasp effectively. 
  • Homework builds problem-solving capabilities. A crucial aspect of learning, students are tested by having to work out answers to questions by themselves. It requires them to concentrate and focus on the task at hand and recall, as best as possible, the relevant information they learned in class earlier. This process also builds independence and self-confidence.
  • Parents also benefit from homework by paying close attention to their child’s homework efforts. They see first-hand what is being taught in class and how their child is learning. Of course, they can lend a helping hand when required, making for an open, inclusive, and cheerful home environment.


Who Invented Homework: The Cons


  • The most substantial reason against homework is that it takes up too much time. Between time for homework and extracurricular activities, students often find themselves away from play and recreation, with no time for picking up new hobbies or time for existing ones, busy for hours equalling that of a full-time job! 
  •  A serious concern regarding homework is that it adversely impacts student health. Physically, mentally and psychologically. Time spent indoors completing homework is prioritized over important active playtime and creative activities. A Galloway, Connor, and Pope study uncovered that nearly 60% of students blamed homework as the most significant stressor. Students often find themselves under pressure to complete assignments on time. Failure to do so results in the student feeling anxious, demotivated, developing negative self-esteem, and feeling like it’s better to quit school sooner rather than later. 
  • There is certainly something wrong when school-related obligations take preference over family values. Parents see children arrive home from school and start on their homework right away, without much time in family interactions. A home environment such as this can leave the child feeling isolated, angry, and bitter and the parents feeling distanced, uninvolved, clueless, and unsure of their child’s well-being. 
  • When in class, students share a level playing field. However, homework is a mismatched practice. Some students may be fortunate to have the time, help, and resources (like access to the internet) to complete their homework effectively. Others may have nothing but paper and pen. In Kralovec and Buell’s book The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning, it is explained how students from low-income family backgrounds are less likely to have the resources to complete their homework correctly. 
  • It may or may not surprise you that there has been no study to successfully prove the worth of homework, in an academic sense or otherwise. 



Who Invented Homework: Good or Evil?

Schools are piling increasingly large loads of homework on their students. A recent study found that high school students had, on average, about three hours of homework a night. Yet research shows that excessive amounts of homework have little or limited learning value.

This is not surprising. After all, students generally must complete their homework in distracting locations – their homes – away from the people best able to answer their questions, their teachers. And they must do so after expending all their energy to get through the long school day.

Homework has been linked to stress and academic disengagement among both young children and teens. In many households, it’s the major cause of kids’ stress – and stress between kids and parents. All of this exacerbates teenage anxiety and depression, both of which are reaching epidemic levels. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 8 percent of teens have an anxiety disorder, and 9 percent succumb to a major depressive episode each year.


Does homework really help?


From a student’s perspective 


  • A majority of students feel that homework doesn’t help. They see it to be a significant stressor. 
  • Some students believe that schools should not assign homework at all. 
  • Students feel that the teacher cannot complete teaching lessons within the time stipulated, which leads to homework.
  • Based on a survey, many students think homework is still crucial to success at school. 
  • Most students feel that their schools should have standards for the kind of homework the teacher assigns. This could be on the basis of time taken to complete or the difficulty level of homework. 
  • Most students agree that quality assignments matter. They want engaging, real-life tasks that get them to think outside the regular school syllabus. 


From a teacher’s perspective 


  • According to a study, teachers believe that homework does not contribute to learning and may be a waste of time. 
  • Many teachers believe that they have to assign homework, even when not required. Primarily, due to a lack of time and inflexible homework policies. 
  • Teachers also feel that homework takes a lot of time and effort. Both the creating and assessing homework adds significantly to their workload. 
  •  Teachers find it difficult to come up with quality assignments. They are at loggerheads between what they feel is the purpose of the assignment and what the school expects of them concerning homework. 


Let’s look at it from a school’s perspective


  • Schools see a correlation between completing homework and achieving academic success, at least in higher grades. 
  • While some schools have gone ahead with enforcing a homework ban only for elementary students, others have been reluctant to follow suit, especially for middle and high school students. 
  • Schools want students to be productively engaged after class. They often encourage the parents to take an active interest in their child’s homework activities. 
  • They believe that homework eases the pressure of completing a dense curriculum. Teachers can teach more material and students can reinforce learning through homework. 



And Finally, from the government’s perspective 


  • Previous governments have enforced bans on homework, but they have since switched tracks to use the practice of homework to boost the academic standards in schools.
  • Now it seems to have come full circle again, with governments considering homework bans in response to student health concerns. 



Who Invented Homework: The road ahead 

So, what lies in store for the practice of homework? 

The practice of homework is here to stay. To do so, it needs to evolve and provide meaning and purpose to a student’s learning journey. Homework came a long way from the copies of black and white papers containing assignments distributed to students after class. After all, the modern student has wholeheartedly embraced the use of the internet and smartphones. Schools have since begun formulating meaningful homework online. It is possible to have it delivered via a learning app. The app suggests activities like playing chess or reading for an hour, along with the required assignments to be completed. While this might seem simplistic, these activities can help students get back in touch with their physical environment.

Who Invented Homework: The Conclusion

The pandemic fast-forwarded, embracing distance learning and blended learning. What was previously a pipedream for schools, successful home learning, quickly became a reality. 

The future is still a little foggy for homework, as it is for education in general. Here is one takeaway from this article. It’s that learning at home will always be an essential part of a child’s development. Like not giving homework at all or thoughtless homework will drive students away from learning in general. That’s something we can’t afford to do after so many recent months of missed lessons and disrupted study. 

The key for schools will be to use technology to innovate the actual content of their homework tasks. Whatever happens, the next couple of years has the potential to decide how the future of teaching and learning looks.

No matter what the history says, students still have to deal with Homework. In case you are also among those millions of students who struggle with their homework, We provide the best homework help services in a wide range of subjects. You may WhatsApp us to get help with your homework right away.

  • Kumar Hemendra

    I am the editor in chief at MEB and ensure the content on our website is of high quality. With 16 years of experience in this field, I myself have written 500+ articles for several educational platforms, including MEB. I am an expert in essay writing and the US and UK education systems. I oversee the online tutoring and homework help businesses of MEB.

    I am a big fan of language, literature, art, and culture. I love reading and writing, and whenever I am not working, you may find me reading some piece of literature. I love animals and am an animal rights activist.