A lawmaker in the Philippines has proposed banning schools from setting homework at weekends, saying students are overworked and need to recharge.

Sam Verzosa, a member of the Philippine House of Representatives, said the Philippines was in an “educational crisis”, with students spending long hours studying but underperforming in test scores.

He cited international rankings, such as the Programme for International Student Assessment, which in 2018 listed the Philippines as the lowest performing of 79 countries and economies in reading, and second from lowest in science and maths.

“The Filipino youth are overworked and yet the Philippines is trailing behind other countries,” said Verzosa, in comments reported by local media.

A bill proposed by Verzosa said “the problem lies in the students having excessive school hours” that are “low in learning productivity”. “Upon going home, they are still piled with homework, despite experts saying that one hour of homework is enough.”

Under the proposals, primary and secondary school teachers should not give any homework or assignments during weekends, while homework during weekdays should be minimal and not require more than four hours a week to be completed.

Students needed time to “rest and recharge”, said Verzosa, adding the homework also risked worsening the divide between wealthy and poorer students, who might hold part-time jobs and not have access to the internet.

The time children spend at school in the Philippines can vary, with those in provinces spending on average 10 hours a day at school, while those in cities six hours a day in class, said Ruby Bernardo, secretary of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers.

In the national capital region, some schools operate in shifts, starting at 6am, to manage overcrowding and a lack of classroom space.

Bernardo said the school system was struggling with underinvestment and a lack of resources and that excessive homework was a symptom of this. “In my experience as a teacher, usually the teacher gives homework to the students because we don’t have enough numbers of textbooks and materials in class,” she said. Students might be asked to research a topic online at home because there are not enough books or laptops to do so at school.

“I can give [students] a print-out, but it’s out of my pocket expenses because we don’t have a Xerox copy machine at our school,” said Bernardo, adding that teachers use their own money for anything from laptops and projectors to balls for PE.

Schools are especially overwhelmed now after the pandemic, which led to in-person classes being halted for two years, causing students to fall behind, she said, adding that the government response had been insufficient.

Verzosa’s proposal would build on Department of Education guidance issued in 2010, which advised teachers to limit public elementary students’ homework to a reasonable quantity on weekdays, and not to set assignments over weekends. Verzosa’s bill would “institutionalise and expand” this, it said, and also incorporate high school students.

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