Heavy school bags are a serious threat to student health and well-being. It has a severe adverse physical effect on growing children that can result in damage to the spine and knees. The school bag is a common cause of back pain in school children. A heavy bag can cause a child to compensate by leaning their body forward and this can strain the muscles in their neck, shoulders and back. The child also finds it difficult to get dressed and undressed, or they often fall at school with their school bag. It also causes fear in them. In addition, in the schools operating in multi-story buildings, the children have to climb the stairs with heavy school bags, further aggravating the problem and health consequences. This high burden is caused by instructing the children to bring textbooks, guides, homework books, rough workbooks, etc. to the classroom every day. If you try to imagine the school enrollment process today, you see a picture of a child with a bag on his shoulder. Even the child’s posture and facial expression give the impression that the bag is very heavy for the child.
The school education system must have confidence in the child’s ability to act. Children are natural learners. They learn more when they are stress-free and in a conducive learning environment. Learning under pressure makes them anxious and lose interest in learning. Their everyday life experiences, voices, questions, etc. need to be given space in the classroom and new learning needs to build on them. This allows them to understand the required concepts instead of memorizing them. The school system must provide basic compulsory subjects according to the political direction at each stage. More subjects and textbooks in all grades in general and primary school in particular cause not only stress in studying but also discomfort in carrying those textbooks to school, making the bag heavy. Once the school system shifts from a textbook-dominated culture to a learner-centric, skills-based culture, the problem of heavy bags is automatically addressed.
There are several debates and discussions related to heavy school bags that have been of great concern to parents, children and school authorities for many years. Child counselors, psychologists and educators have often stressed that heavy bags have negative consequences for students’ health and well-being, and all agree that weight needs to be reduced. But despite several circulars to schools, students continue to bear the burden of homework and heavy school bags.
The new “Policy on School Bag 2020″ from the Union Department of Education recommends that the weight of the bag in schools must be regularly monitored. They should be light, with two padded and adjustable straps that fit snugly on either shoulder, and no roll-top bags should be allowed. School bags should not account for more than 10% of the body weight of grades I to X students. Example: If a child’s weight is 15-22 kg, the bag weight should be 1.5-2.2 kg and no homework should be done until class II. The guideline even recommends that the weight of each textbook be determined by the editors can be printed on it. “Schools must post bag weight charts on the notice board and in classrooms, and the school diary should also be included in the bag weight. The school management committee must create timetables for the students so that they do not have to bring all the books with them every day and the weight of the school bag does not exceed the specified limit,” the statement said. The recommendations are based on various surveys and studies conducted by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) conducted.The policy states that data from 3,624 students and 2,992 parents from 352 schools including Kendriya Vidyalayas and government schools were analyzed.The Policy on School Bag 2020 made 11 recommendations on the weight of the bags , including an adequate good quality lunchtime meal and drinking water for all pupils so that they do not have to carry lunch boxes or bottled water.The policy also recommended providing children with special needs with a duplicate set of textbooks on bookshelves in schools and lockers in classes for storing and retrieving books and other counters to make available.
Politicians said there should be no bags in preschool. For Classes I and II, baggage weight should be between 1.6kg and 2.2kg. Likewise, he should be 1.7kg to 2.5kg, 2kg to 3kg, 2.5kg to 4kg, 2.5kg to 4.5kg and 3.5kg to 5kg for classes III to V , Classes VI and VII, Class VIII, Classes IX and X, and Classes XI and XII, respectively. The recommendation that total study time should be taken into account when planning the curriculum, the policy said, while there should be no homework until Grade II and a maximum of two hours per week for Grades III through V, homework duration for Grades VI through VIII does not exceed one hour per day and two hours per day for Classes IX and above. The New School Bag Policy is a defining feature of the NEP as it responds to the trend towards digitization of education, which has been driven in large measure by the sudden onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic’s dramatic disruption to school curriculum and class schedules prompted the education system to shift to online education, and now it has become ubiquitous. The true impact of digital education and its benefits have become apparent as online learning has taken off with the full approval of the school community. Digital education is the way forward to fill many critical gaps in education and improve experiences and outcomes so students have fewer pockets.
According to NCF 2005, the school should offer two languages and mathematics in grades I and II; bilingual, mathematics and EVS in grades III-V; Three languages, mathematics, science and social sciences in grades VI-VIII. Subjects such as social studies, moral education and general education must be integrated across subjects and other activities in school without additional textbooks. Health, sports and arts education are the areas that help in the comprehensive development of children. These must find an appropriate place in the timetable. Children should not be allowed to carry a textbook for this area. When choosing children’s textbooks, the criterion of weight should be taken into account. The weight of the textbooks is to be printed on the textbooks by all publishers together with grams per square meter (GSM).
According to the NEP 2020, students in grades 6-8 participate in a fun course that provides an overview and hands-on experience of a selection of key trades such as carpentry, electrical work, metalwork, gardening, pottery, etc., as recommended by states and local communities decided and represented by the local qualification requirements. All students participate in a 10 day bagless period at some point during grades 6-8 where they do an internship with local professionals such as gardeners, potters, artists etc. Throughout the year, Bagless Days are encouraged for various types of enrichment activities including arts, quizzes, sports and professional crafts. The children are regularly exposed to extracurricular activities by visiting places/monuments of historical, cultural and touristic importance, meeting local artists and craftsmen and attending higher educational institutions in their village/Tehsil/district/state. For classes I and II, a single notebook may only be used for class work. Two notebooks for lessons and homework for grades III-V. Only one booklet can be in a child’s bag at a time, the second is kept at school.
This is the perfect time to implement these recommendations as part of NEP 2020, where everyone from teachers to students to parents are now digitally trained to deliver and receive education. There are so many applications and learning software that can now help students go to school without a bag. With this policy, the path for schools should be to seize the current situation and use it as an opportunity. Almost all private and state schools have had to switch to online mode with varying degrees of success. Thanks to technology, not only can teaching and learning be done digitally with the help of great content, but also homework and tests can easily be taken online, further reducing the need for students to carry textbooks to schools and lightening their pockets. Even after Covid, schools should follow the new blended learning model and improve digital skills so that learning never stops – be it holidays, winter or summer breaks or other unforeseen events that may result in lost school days. The new school bag directive is a good step for many reasons. School boards should hold a meeting at the beginning of the school year to ensure fair distribution of textbooks so that it can be tracked throughout the year. Schools can make digital diaries available to all students. In addition, the homework and exercises can be made available by e-mail. Much of the paperwork and printed word can be easily transcribed online or into digital text references.
Apart from the measures described above, schools need to put more emphasis on “learning by doing” to encourage students’ creative abilities. Schools must work to build analytical skills and develop scientific acumen in students. This will reduce dependency on textbook learning and consequently pocket dependency. Additionally, it enables students to be better time managers and use their time to learn new skills when they are at home. This policy also requires schools to make infrastructural changes. The introduction to school lockers and storage can provide students with a place to safely store their books and copies at school so that they can carry light school bags. In addition to lockers, schools can offer extra hours in the form of day boarding where students can spend more time with teachers and do their homework at school.
If some of the measures are really taken seriously, the school bag policy will certainly bring great relief to school children. It’s a step in changing the perception of studying as a literal burden. This policy will not only reduce the weight on their backs, but also the mental baggage they carry to schools every day. In summary, the policy can be seen as an attempt to rebalance the traditional teaching-learning mode by incorporating e-learning and to encourage the blended learning approach – the phygital model that is now seen as the future of education is accepted. Schools have already accepted and recognized the need for technology in education – the time has come to move the learning experience from the physical to the digital sphere – and this policy is a step in the right direction.
Children are the future of the nation. Her good health and stress-free spirit will help build a nation. Therefore, it must be made mandatory that every school, regardless of its management (government or private), ensures the implementation of the school bag directive for the benefit of the children.
(The author is a regular contributor to this newspaper and can be reached at email@example.com