As a result of the ministry of education’s new policy, students will no longer have to lug heavy school bags on their backs
n educational circles, the weight of school bags has been a subject of debate for several years. Child counsellors, psychologists and educationists have often highlighted that heavy bags have negative consequences for the health and well-being of students. The NCERT (National Council of Education Research and Training), through several surveys and studies, found that carrying heavy bags was bad for students’ health and resulted in stunted growth, especially for those in pre-primary and primary classes.
Taking cognisance of this, the Union ministry of education, on December 8, announced the ‘Policy on School Bag 2020’ in line with the New Education Policy 2020. According to the policy, the total weight of a student’s school bag (for students from class 1 to 10) should not be more than 10 per cent of their body weight. The ministry has also recommended that schools monitor the weight of the bags on regular basis.
The Right Step
Welcoming the move, Alka Kapur, principal, Modern Public School, Delhi, says, “It’s a good decision. This is precisely why we have time tables, to ensure that students don’t carry any unnecessary [textbooks or notebooks on a given day].” Students from different age groups have different levels of physical strength, and the young can’t carry the same load as the older ones.
The sight of a young child panting up the stairs, weighed down by a hefty backpack, is a usual sight in schools. The adverse effect of those backpacks on children’s spinal posture, foot shape and walking pattern has time and again been noted. Pallavi Rao Chaturvedi, vice-president of the Early Childhood Association, says, “Children usually compensate for the load on the back by leaning forward, straining the muscles of the neck, back and shoulders.” Situations such as these were often disregarded earlier keeping in mind the amount of books and other necessities the children carried in their bags. “However, the Policy on School Bag 2020 has suggested to unburden these children through various measures. These are definitely a step forward to mould the children of our nation into skilled citizens rather than stressed citizens of the future India,” adds Chaturvedi.
Watch the Weight
The recommendations in the policy will come as a relief to students; not only will the weight on their backs be reduced, it will also reduce the mental baggage they carry. According to Rajat Soni, a teen-life and parenting coach, “It’s a step towards changing the perception of studies being a burden or obligation.” The larger goal is to make students understand the goal of education—to prepare them for adulthood. For instance, that exams are not meant to judge them as people, but simply a tool to measure the knowledge gained. Elaborates Soni, “We are working towards making skills a priority—prioritisation, time management, the structuring of thoughts. This is what will allow the youth take the country forward with their resilience and tenacity. Having said that, [regarding the policy], consistency in monitoring weight of the school bags is key.”
Unnecessarily heavy bags cause children to get tired. Experts point out that heavy bags can cause shoulder pain, neck and arm pain, headaches and lower back pain. A school is supposed to be place of learning and fun but the physical burden of a heavy bag imposes a mental strain as well—a constant reminder of the weight of studies. Anuja Kapur, psychologist, explains, “Different weight as per various standards will be the new norm. Random checks should be carried out throughout schools using a digital weighing scale to ensure that the well being of students is not being compromised.”
For class 1, the bag weight should be between 1.6 kg and 2.2 kg, for classes 2 to 5 between 1.7 kg and 2.5 kg, for classes 6 to 8 between 2 kg and 3 kg, for classes 9 and 10 between 2.5 kg and 4 kg, and 3.5 kg to 5 kg for classes 11 and 12. Parents, on their part, can ensure that children carry only the books and notebooks required by their time tables.
Role of Schools
As per the policy’s recommendations, school authorities are required to conduct a meeting at the beginning of the academic year to ensure a fair distribution of textbook weight per day for classes 1 to 12. This would be followed through the year. Alka says, “Besides monitoring the weight of the bags, the schools can use digital diaries so that the physical diaries can be made thinner. Practice questions and assignments can be made available through email.”
Schools need to work hand-in-hand with students and inform them in advance about all the material and books required for a particular day. Anuja explains, “Students should be encouraged to repack their bags on daily basis and avoid carrying unnecessary articles, textbooks and workbooks that are not needed.”
Once schools reopen and children who currently are learning through online classes move back to physical classes, the back-to-school life will be different for them—with lighter schools bags, blended models of learning and enhanced digital skills.