Concerned that students continue to stoop under the weight of heavy school bags, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) on Monday asked affiliated schools to enforce additional measures to lighten students’ burden.
In the footsteps of the Maharashtra government — which enforced a new school bag policy last year limiting the weight of the bag to 10% the weight of the child — the CBSE in April issued an advisory that affiliated schools, too, must make bags lighter. The board has suggested ways in which schools, teachers and parents can achieve this, based on their feedback.
One of the major suggestions is that schools should ask students to stick to the timetable and make them aware about the effects of fatigue caused owing to heavy bags on their daily performance in class. “Young children whose spine is at a crucial stage of growth are most susceptible to back, muscle, shoulder pain and in extreme cases the distortion of spinal cord… the impact may well be irreversible,” read the circular issued by KK Choudhary, director, academic, research and training.
Among a slew of suggestions such as random checks, parental supervision while students pack bags and pairing students to share textbooks, the board stated that Class 1 and Class 2 should not be assigned homework or carry school bags and light weight textbooks should be prescribed.
Education officials in Mumbai observed that CBSE and ICSE school bags are heavier than the Maharashtra state board because they have multiple textbooks for each subject. “Students cannot rely only on the NCERT books in higher classes, reference books are needed to solve questionnaires because they are asked questions from different books in the exam,” said Kalpana Kumar, principal, St Joseph’s School, Panvel.
Recognising that this practice increases the bag weight, the CBSE suggested, “Schools should not prescribe too many additional and supplementary textbooks that are at times voluminous, costly and designed in a pedagogically unsound manner.”
It asked schools to set aside a few hours in the timetable for students to complete their homework and assignments, but schools called it an “impractical” move. “We cannot afford to make separate provisions for homework completion for each subject during school hours,” said Ganesh Parmeswaran, principal, Bal Bharti Public School, Navi Mumbai, adding that measures taken by schools to reduce the weight of the bags are not working.
“Many schools tried to rejig their timetable and allot double periods. We even gave parents freedom to take any step they want to lighten the bags, but it hasn’t helped much. Often teachers insist on bringing more books or tuition books are stowed away in the bag and this increases weight,” said Parameswaran.
Directives of the CBSE:
What schools can do:
Exhort students to abide by the timetable and to repack their bags daily to avoid carrying unnecessary articles and books.
Check school bags randomly to ensure students aren’t carrying heavy bags
Relate the adverse effects of fatigue caused due to heavy bags through special assemblies.
Don’t assign homework to students of classes 1 and 2 and ask them not bring their school bag.
Keep a separate provision in the timetable for students to complete their homework or assignments during school hours.
On days having sports period, allow students to wear sports uniform for the entire day so they don’t carry it separately.
Prescribe light-weight textbooks and don’t assign too many additional books.
What teachers can do:
Don’t penalise students for not carrying textbooks or workbooks. The fear may compel most of them to bring all the books adding to their burden.
Allow pairs of students to share textbooks so that one will bring half of the books required for the day and another student will bring remaining.
What parents can do:
Buy lighter backpacks with two taut straps. Raise health concerns over heavy bags in the parents teachers meetings
Regularly clean their bags and supervise packing. Instruct students to avoid hanging the bag on their shoulders with only one strap.