Let’s start from homework definition. If you were to ask any teacher for the definition and purpose of homework you’re likely to get a standard answer: Homework is a tool for developing and measuring a student’s ability to perform academic exercises. Students are given homework assignments on a variety of disciplines and subjects and are required to these assignments by a specific deadline.
When it comes to the question of what the research says about the effectiveness of homework, things get a little murkier. But before we can answer this question, it’s helpful to know a little about the history of homework by looking at the past.
Who Invented School?
School is a concept that has been around since ancient times across different cultures. Early civilizations like Mesopotamian, Sumerian, Egyptian, Chinese, Mayan and so forth all had some type of system in place to perpetuate knowledge, especially in young people. It was a way of passing on important life skills to future generations. But what may be asking is who invented school in the modern sense of the word. One in which we are accustomed to seeing as organized education occurring in a classroom.
In the United States, the earliest form of schooling is pretty recent and is credited to a man named Horace Mann. Born in 1796 he was a proponent of public education and felt that this was something all citizens, especially, children should have available to them at no cost. Before his time most education occurred privately but because the costs were so high, education was limited to people with means. Mann felt that schools (buildings, classrooms, books, etc.) should be funded by taxpayers and procured by local, state, and federal governments.
Who Invented College?
When we think of college, in the United States, for example, we think of it as a place that offers a degree in tertiary education. It can also apply to vocational schooling. No one knows when and where college was invented. The Aztecs are believed to have established the oldest college in the Americas (long before the Spanish conquest in the 14th century). Unfortunately, no official records are stating the college’s exact founding — but many texts exist pointing to the Aztecs passing on knowledge in a structured form place the beginnings of the college at several centuries before.
In parts that were once a part of Sumeria, there is evidence of scribal schools that date back as far as 5000 to 6000 years. And it is known that schooling was an important part of the Sumerian culture, so an established form of passing on knowledge would very much have played a role in the tribe’s complex structure.
Who Invented Homework?
Finally, we get closer to trying to answer who created homework. The majority of the time in which education in a structured form has been around, all work was done at school. The invention of homework is largely credited to an Italian educator named Roberto Nevilis in around 1905 when he began to give homework assignments (school work to be done at home) as a form of punishment for his students’ behavior, lack of interest in learning, and slow progress in retaining lessons. That’s right! Homework got its start as punishment. It’s no wonder students are hesitant to do their homework assignments.