parents and education
Image Source: La Source

I am a parent and an important stakeholder in my child’s education and education at large. My voice was not heard.

Recently, social and print media was flooded with a purported circular- all the state governments and union territories were asked to regulate the teaching of subjects and weight of school bags as prescribed by the Government of India. However, I could not locate the same on the official website of MHRD or on the Delhi Government’s website of Directorate of Education.

Based on the said circular, the Delhi High Court has issued a notice to Delhi Government’s DoE where the PIL refers to textbooks and not the weight of school bags.

The weighty issue of heavy bags has been captured by Dr Swati Gupta beautifully in the following lines:

“बस्ते का बोझ”

“माँ मेरे बस्ते के बोझ में मेरा बचपन दब रहा है।
सुबह सबेरे जल्दी उठकर मैं स्कूल जाता हूँ।
देर शाम को थका हुआ स्कूल से वापस आता हूँ।
होमवर्क है इतना सारा मुश्किल से पूरा कर पाता हूँ।
माँ मेरे बस्ते के बोझ में मेरा बचपन दब रहा है।
विज्ञान गणित के प्रश्न हैं ऐसे चैन न पाने देते हैं।
इतिहास भूगोल में उलझा ऐसा नींद न आने देते हैं।
सामान्य ज्ञान के चक्कर में दिमाग का दही बन रहा है।
माँ मेरे बस्ते के बोझ में मेरा बचपन दब रहा है।
कॉम्पटीशन की होड़ लगी है मै पीछे न रह जाऊँ।
अपनी इस व्यथा को मै किसी और को कैसे समझाऊँ।
यही सोच सोच कर मन ही मन घबराता हूँ ।
माँ मेरे बस्ते के बोझ में मेरा बचपन दब रहा है।
क्या भूलूँ क्या याद करुँ कुछ समझ न आता है।
खेलकूद के लिए भी मुझे समय नहीं मिल पाता है।
मेरी पीड़ा माँ सिर्फ तू ही समझे इसलिए तुझे बताता हूँ।
माँ मेरे बस्ते के बोझ में मेरा बचपन दब रहा है।”

The weight limit for school bags for various grades is as under:

Grade I & II:- 1.5kg

Grade III to V: – 2-3 kg

Grade 6-7:- 4kg

Grade 8-9: – 4.5kg

Grade 10:- 5kg

At the first instance, it is amusing to see how the measures are in decimals! What will be the consequence of my child in grade 1 carrying a bag weighing 1.6 kg or in grade 9 with a bag weighing 4.8 kg!

Per the purported circular,– no homework for grade 1 and 2 students. Only language and Math should be taught. Will it be vernacular language or Hindi or English? For Grade 3-5, students will learn only languages, math and environmental science as prescribed by the NCERT. This is again an anomaly. India does not follow ‘One Nation, One Board’ policy.

In 1993, the Prof Yashpal Committee had come out with “Learning without burden” report. Despite that, the bags are getting heavier. As a parent, I am aware of the fact that heavy bags are a burden on my child’s spine, hands, wrist- his entire musculoskeletal system. We have to deploy technology to assist in the issue.

To overcome this, here are my few suggestions:

  • Smartboards should be used to display books in a digital format relieving students from the heavyweights
  • Just like carpools, teachers can create book pools whereby two students share a book. One child can bring half the subject -books and another child can bring another set and they share it.
  • Schools can provide students with lockers. This will allow students to keep books/notebooks in schools itself.
  • Replacing notebooks with worksheets and light folders for exercises and homework can reduce the pressure on children.
  • Bags should be designed ergonomically. Schools should prescribe backpacks as against shoulder bags. It should be sufficiently padded and should have waist belt for better posture.
  • Classes should be conducted per the subject of the day. For example, Monday’s should be concentrated on Mathematics with other activities. The books can be split into volumes. So, your child carries only those books that are to be taught on that day.
  • As a parent, you must teach your child how to pack his school bag. He must be told to put heaviest books at the rear of the bag, near back, so there’s less burden on a child’s spine.

We, as parents, teachers, schools and society as a whole, have to combat this menace of heavy bags. We don’t want to leave them with crooked backs and weak muscles. Let’s together fend off this beast of bags from our kids’ back!