Lighter school bags welcome directive

School children carrying heavy bags in Bengaluru. DH Photo/ B H Shivakumar

The union HRD ministry’s recent directive limiting the weight of school bags for students of all classes across the country is very sensible and has been widely welcomed. The sight of primary school children and even older students lugging bulky bags containing textbooks, notebooks, other study materials and lunch boxes is common everywhere. Surveys and experts’ views have confirmed that the weight not only hurts the children’s back but causes long-term damage to their body. The burden may cause muscle strain and lead to deformation of the spine or even nervous disorders. Children are made to carry school bags weighing as much as 45% of their own body weight while it is not advisable to carry more than 10% of the body weight. It is a denial of child rights and it should stop. 

The ministry has told state governments and union territories to frame guidelines so that students of Class 1 and 2 are required to learn only languages and mathematics. No homework should be assigned to them and their bags should not weigh more than 1.5 kg. Environmental studies can be added as a subject for classes 3 to 5 while the bag weight should be in the 2-3 kg range. Different weight limits have been prescribed for higher classes, with the weight of the bag not exceeding 5 kg for Class 10. The bag weight can be reduced only when the curriculum load is reduced. Imposing too much information on children is actually counterproductive. It kills independent thinking and creativity. Education should be child-centred and process-oriented, but books are often associated with rote learning. While bags should get lighter, the logistics should also receive consideration. So long as children need books at both home and school, they will have to carry them. The textbooks have become heavy because of design issues — the same lessons that were earlier printed in 30 pages are now printed in 100.

The guidelines should be implemented and governments, school boards and school authorities should ensure this. The Rajya Sabha had passed a bill in 2006 limiting the weight of school bags, mandating schools to provide lockers and prescribing fines for schools that fail to comply with the regulations. The CBSE issued similar guidelines in 2016. Courts have issued orders to cap the weight of bags. But children have not received any relief. The ministry’s directive calls for implementation of the proposals from the next academic session. There are reports that some states have started working on them. The implementation should be monitored by parents’ associations and bodies like the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

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Lighter school bags welcome directive

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