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Education in States and Nations: 1991

(ESN) Indicator 18: Student time spent doing homework and watching television

How students occupy their time outside of school can affect their academic performance. Since homework is a form of practice or self-directed study, most educators feel that it improves student achievement. Empirical studies conducted on the subject, moreover, suggest that the amount of time spent on homework is positively related to academic achievement. However, statistics concerning the average number of hours spent on homework tell us little about the quality of the homework assigned or the effort and care students take in completing it. For many students, homework must compete with television for their attention. If students spend a lot of time watching television, little time is left to focus on academic studies. This indicator documents how students spend their time at home through two measures - the percentage of students who claim to do 2 hours or more of homework daily, and the percentage of students who report watching television one hour or less daily. Data for these two measures are based on the responses of 13-year-old students in the countries and 8th-grade public school students in the states.

  • In 1991, 13-year-old students in the United States did less homework each day than their counterparts in most of the other countries for which we have data. Only Scotland and Switzerland, of the 18 other countries represented here, reported a lower percentage of students doing 2 hours or more of homework a day than did the United States.

  • In 1992, the percentage of students indicating they do 2 or more hours of homework daily was generally lower in the U.S. states than in the other countries for which data were available. In twelve of 18 other countries, more than 4 out of 10 13-year-olds reported doing that much homework; whereas none of the 41 states had that many. The range across the states was much more narrow than that across the countries, with a difference of only 15 percentage points separating Connecticut and Massachusetts (34 percent) and Iowa (19 percent). The range across countries extended 65 percentage points between Emilia Romagna, Italy (79 percent) and Scotland (14 percent).

  • Of 18 other countries reporting data, only Scotland had a higher proportion of students report watching 2 hours or more of TV daily than did the United States. The percentage for China (35 percent), the country with the lowest percentage of students who watched television 2 hours or more daily, was 49 percentage points lower than that of the United States (84 percent).

  • On the whole, a higher proportion of students in the U.S. states watched television for 2 hours or more daily than did students in other countries reporting data. Twelve countries, but only three states, had percentages lower than 80. The range across the countries was much wider than that across the states. The countries reported a range of 55 percentage points, while the states showed a difference of only 18 percentage points between the states with the lowest (Utah) and highest (Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas) percentages.

Table 17b Processes and Institutions Indicators Figure 18a
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