The school bags are heavy. There's no denying it. They are far too heavy for children to carry them every day to school. But what is really weighing down on the kids? Is it the weight of the school bags or the education system? The weight of education on children in India is a matter that needs serious deliberation. But has the weight of education boiled down to the weight of school bags? It appears so going by the government’s latest directions issued to schools in all states and union territories in the country. But are heavy bags that hold not only books but other items that are required the real burden on school children? Or, is it the long duration of school hours that calls for carrying all the books required for the day the real burden, or the huge curriculum and varied syllabus that requires the use of many books and stationaries to be carried to school every day?
And, would slashing the weight of school bags help to ease the burden on school-going kids? If so, who will weigh the bags of hundreds of students in a school every day - the parents, teachers or the students themselves?
For good or for worse, there are different measures of weight issued for different classes. Implementing the directions in toto would require some real task. It's a different matter that several schools across the country, on thier own accord, have stopped school kids from carrying bags to school and their books are kept in school. And other alternatives to ease the burden on children are being carried out.
According to the Union Human Resource Development Ministry’s guidelines issued on Monday, the weight of school bags should not be more than five kg for any class student. For class and I and II students, the school bag weight should be below 1.5 kg, and 2-3 kg for classes III to V, four kg for classes VI and VII, 4.5 kg for classes VIII & IX and 5 kg for class X.
Of course, the guidelines also say that schools should not be allowed to prescribe the students any other books than NCERT syllabus textbooks, if that’s any comfort. But the curriculum and syllabus and the weight of the textbooks remain the same.
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It is well that the ministry also instructed schools not to give any homework to students of class I and class II. The ministry’s guidelines came after the Madras High Court observation earlier this year that the children are not “weightlifters” and their school bags should not be loaded like containers.
The new guideliness are welcome given the fact that children are made to carry heavy bags to school and are overburdened with piles of homework which often results in their parents doing it for the children. It is a big relief for both, school kids and parents.
However, the recent guidelines appear as surface solution to problems facing school kids. There are real issues that are waiting to be addressed. The present education system in India is such that there are talks about the need to change the system and the teaching-learning approach and to build upon providing quality education that are career-oriented. This is so because, apart from heavy school bags, children are burdened with the load of having to cramp up a lot for the sake of passing and achieving good marks in exam, regardless of their inclination or aptitude for a particular subject. In view of it, and while the problems are many, will fixing the weight of school bags reduce the burden and weight of learning on children?
And it's always easier said than done. It's easy to fix a weight. But who will weigh the bags?