New Delhi: Better organised timetables, relying on digital content wherever possible, and lockers — these are some of the steps schools across India have taken over the past few years to make sure students are not forced to carry heavy bags.
The issue of heavy school bags — a longstanding concern among parents and education experts alike — took centre stage again as the Union government launched its ‘School Bag Policy’ in November last year.
The policy restricts the weight of school bags to 10 per cent of a child’s average weight at different ages, asking schools to conduct inspections every three months to ensure the load doesn’t breach this limit.
Speaking to ThePrint, several schools talked about the steps they have taken — and those they plan to take in light of the policy — to keep school bags light.
Different measures are being taken by both government and private establishments in this regard, with all institutions emphasising the importance of sparing students the ordeal of lugging heavy loads to and from school.
‘Heavy bags can result in health issues’
Neena Kaul, principal of the Gurugram-based Heritage Xperiential Learning School, said there is “a reliable body of research confirming that excessive weight on children’s backs, owing to heavy school bags, can result in health issues, both physical and mental”.
“The stress caused to young minds as a result of this physical burden often translates into children viewing the entire exercise of learning as burdensome. Rather than perceiving learning as a valuable gift, they may start perceiving it more as a duty,” she added.
“For this reason, we have always been sensitive to the weight of bags that the students carry.”
According to Kaul, primary-level and middle-school students at Heritage Xperiential Learning School do not have to carry textbooks to the campus — they only carry worksheets and hence the weight of the school bag remains light.
“As a result, our students in the primary and middle years do not have any textbooks and are only required to carry an absolute minimum number of exercise books and worksheets, so that the weight of their bags remains low,” she said. “Senior-year students are given lockers to store their books so that they do not have to carry all their books every day.”
Delhi Public School Bangalore also encourages the use of lockers for students. Teachers at the school also request parents to ensure younger kids only carry those books to school that are prescribed in the timetable.
“As educators, we realise that children carrying heavy bags has a bad effect on them. We advise parents to send only those books that are prescribed in the timetable,” said Mansoor Ali Khan, member of the board of management at Delhi Public School (DPS) Bangalore and Mysore.
“…At the same time, there are many schools that give locker facilities for students so that they don’t have to carry books.”
Khan said they had also tried technology.
“We replaced some books with tablets and we faced criticism, so the best possible solution in all these scenarios is that the parents check the bag of the child,” he added. “The child does not need to carry all the books, only those that are required.”
The Bhubaneswar-based ODM Public School said the new policy is not very different from the steps they have already been following to ensure lighter school bags.
“We have to ensure a fixed timetable as per subjects for different classes. We ask students to bring more worksheets, rather than textbooks, to school. We have given them a locker to keep their belongings in school,” said Swoyan Satyendu, Director, ODM Public School.
Relying on technology
While the use of technology elicited backlash for DPS Bangalore and Mysore, other schools have successfully gone down the road to reduce the number of textbooks that students carry to school.
“We have already initiated steps to limit the weight of bags. Thanks to the technological advances, a lot of the learning material is available digitally and we encourage students to embrace new digital modes of learning to reduce the number of books they have to carry to the school,” said Shikha Banerjee, Principal at Seth Anandram Jaipuria School, Kanpur.
“Additionally, we have created a smart timetable for classroom periods to ensure that the hard learning material students bring to school remains within prescribed limits,” she added.
Alka Kapur, principal at Modern Public School in Delhi’s Shalimar Bagh, agrees that the inclusion of technology will bring down the burden of extra school books.
“Besides monitoring the weight of the bags, the schools can resort to digital diaries and communicate with the parents regarding any issue via the online mode,” she said. “It is convenient and it would reduce the weight of the diary as well. Also, as per the policy’s recommendations, the school authorities will conduct a meeting at the beginning of every academic year, and ensure a fair distribution of textbook weight per day for classes 1 to 12. This would be followed throughout the year,” she added.
Even she feels that having a fixed timetable will ensure students do not carry extra textbooks in their bag. “This is precisely why we have the timetable as well. To ensure that students do not carry any unnecessary burden…” she said.
Fixed timetables are also the means government schools are relying on to abide by the policy, since they can’t offer the facility of either lockers or greater reliance on digital technology like tablets.
“We cannot give lockers or tablets to our students, so we will just fix the number of books they get to school each day, depending on the timetable,” said Sonam Gupta, a middle-school teacher at a government institute in Haryana.
“The timetable will have to be a lot more organised for each of the classes to ensure a lighter school bag.”
Another teacher at a Delhi government school said, “We give an exact timetable to students for each day and ask them to bring exactly the number of books mentioned in the schedule. That is how we ensure children carry light school bags.”
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