Heavy school bags pose issues for students of all ages. Lugging only one book per subject all adds up, especially on the weight of our student’s backs. Now concerned that students are stooping under the weight of heavy school bags, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has asked affiliated schools to take necessary steps to lighten the student’s heavy burden (on their backs).
Triggered by the Maharashtra government – which passed a law that limits the weight of a school bag to ten percent of the student’s body weight – the CBSE issued an advisory with schools to make bags lighter, this April. The board has suggested a variety of ways in which parents and teachers can help enforce this new rule.
A significant impetus in this cause was the student’s physical health; more and more students were suffering from fatigue due to their heavy book bags, thus causing them to perform poorly in class. “Young children whose spine is at a crucial stage of growth are most susceptible to back, muscle, shoulder pain and in extreme cases, the distortion of spinal cord… the impact may well be irreversible,” states director K.K. Choudhry.
Some suggestions include random bag checks, parental supervision when students pack their bags and pairing students to share textbooks. The board has even stated that students in the first or second standard should not be assigned homework or carry bags/textbooks around school.
While many schools ask parents to send school bags with their logo represented on it, very few schools such as Chitkara International School, Strawberry Fields World School and DC Montessori have responded to the directions of the board by emphasizing on the stress of these students.
“Principals say that students cannot rely only on the NCERT books in higher classes and reference books are required to solve questionnaires,” said Rekha Sharma, parent of a student at a school in Chandigarh.
Realizing that more books increase the weight of the bag, the CBSE suggested, “Schools should not prescribe too many additional and supplementary textbooks that are at times voluminous, costly and designed in a pedagogically unsound manner.”
The CBSE asked schools to set aside a couple of hours for students to complete their homework and assignments, like study halls in many western schools. However, the schools called it an “impractical” move. “We cannot afford to make separate provisions for homework completion for each subject during school hours,” said a counselor, emphasizing on the fact that initiatives taken by schools to reduce the weight of the bags are not working.
Rubinderjit Singh Brar, director school education (DSE) at the CBSE said, “I am yet to go through the circular in its entirety but if the instructions have been issued, they must be adhered to.”
Directives of the CBSE:
What can schools do?
Exhort students to abide by the timetable and to repack their bags daily to avoid carrying unnecessary articles and books.
Check school bags randomly to ensure students aren’t carrying heavy bags.
Relate the adverse effects of fatigue caused due to heavy bags through special assemblies.
Don’t assign homework to students of classes 1 and 2 and ask them not bring their school bag.
Keep a separate provision in the timetable for students to complete their homework or assignments during school hours.
On days having sports period, allow students to wear sports uniform for the entire day so they don’t carry it separately.
Prescribe light-weight textbooks and don’t assign too many additional books.
What teachers can do?
Don’t penalize students for not carrying textbooks or workbooks. The fear may compel most of them to bring all the books adding to their burden.
Allow pairs of students to share textbooks so that one will bring half of the books required for the day and another student will bring remaining.
What parents can do?
Buy lighter backpacks with two taut straps. Raise health concerns over heavy bags in the parent-teacher meetings.
Regularly clean their bags and supervise packing. Instruct students to avoid hanging the bag on their shoulders with only one strap.