After it was observed that textbooks, notebooks, guides, water bottles and lunch boxes contribute to the heavy weight of bags, the Centre, in 2018, issued guidelines that instructed schools to ensure students don’t get overburdened by the heavy weight of bags. But how many states follow them?
The Bhopal court on Wednesday issued a notice to the district education department for not following the school-bag policy that was implemented by the Human Resource Development Ministry in 2020.
District judge, SPS Bundela mentioned that the Central government had issued instructions for the state governments to follow the school-bag policy back in November 2020.
“Heavy school bags are a big concern and the school-bag policy should be implemented. I have issued a notice to the DEO of Bhopal. Children are an important part of society. The policy must be implemented without any delay,” he said, according to a report in The Times of India.
The court has given the Bhopal district education 15 days to reply.
What is the school-bag policy?
According to the ‘School bag policy, 2020’ that was released by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), a survey found that children from primary classes carried school bags that weighed between two to 3.5 kilogrammes (kg). While students from Class 6 onwards carried bags that weighed between three to six kg. The items that contributed to the excessive load included textbooks, notebooks, lunch box, and water bottle.
The survey also revealed that students wanted to carry school bags but felt that they were burdened with excessive weight.
Considering the plight of students, recommendations were made in order to reduce the weight of school bags.
As per the circular, every school should maintain and follow the universally accepted ratio of the weight of a school bag as 10 per cent of the body weight for all classes. Teachers should ensure that the weight of school bags is monitored regularly. In addition to this, schools must ensure that facilities like mid-day meals and potable water are in place so that students can avoid carrying the extra weight of lunch boxes and water bottles.
The weight of school bags, according to the policy, should be 1.6 to 2.2 kg for Classes 1 and 2, 1.7 to 2.5 kg for Classes 3, 4, and 5, two to three kg for Classes 6 and 7, 2.5 to four kg for Class 8, 2.5 to four kg for Classes 9 and 10 and finally 3.5 to five kilograms for Classes 11 and 12.
While selecting textbooks for students, the council recommended that the criterion of weight should be taken into consideration. For students with special needs, lockers may be installed so that they can store their books and retrieve them later.
How did the policy come into force?
The Central Board of Secondary Education has, for over 15 years, pushed schools to come up with a solution to fix an appropriate about of weight that can be carried in school bags. In fact, it issued circulars in 2007 and more recently in 2018 to reduce the load of school bags.
Soon after it was observed that textbooks, homework, notebooks, rough work notebooks, guides, water bottle and lunch box contribute to the heavy weight of school bags. The Ministry of Human Resource Development, in 2016, issued guidelines that instructed schools to ensure students don’t get overburdened by the heavy weight of school bags.
In May 2018, the Madras High Court said that NCERT books should be made compulsory to carry and the weight of school bags should not exceed 10 per cent of the student’s body. “Children are neither weightlifters nor school bags loaded containers,” the court remarked, according to an Indian Express report.
In October 2018, the ministry ordered all states and Union Territories to form guidelines to “regulate the teaching of subjects and weight of school bags in accordance with the Government of India instructions”.
Which states have implemented this policy so far?
Maharashtra: The Maharashtra state school department, in 2021, planned to introduce a single textbook for Class 1 in a bid to reduce the weight of school bags. The four subjects, English, Marathi, Maths, and play and learn, have been integrated into one textbook per four semesters. As a result, instead of carrying four textbooks for each subject, students can carry four parts of a single textbook.
Karnataka: In 2019, the Karnataka government ordered all schools to ensure that a student’s school bag should not exceed 10 per cent of his or her own weight. The order also mentioned the prescribed weight of a school bag that should be carried by students of each class.
Delhi: Last year, Delhi government capped the weight of school bags to 3.5 to five kg for students in primary, secondary and senior secondary levels.
The criticism against the policy
Poor implementation of the policy in states like Maharashtra has invited backlash from the public. After taking decisions such as replacing books with e-tablets, creating locker rooms so that students can leave their books in school and introducing lighter weight bags, the government has been unsuccessful in implementing the school-bag policy.
The government had claimed, after schools reopened post-summer vacations in 2017, that as a result of a successful implementation of the policy schools bags had gotten much lighter than before. However, education activists noticed that school bags were heavier by one kilogram.
Again in December 2017, the Maharashtra government claimed that 88 per cent of school bags in the city were lighter than before, but citizens were sceptical on this claim as a Hindustan Times report shows that only 10 per cent of schools were surveyed.
How do heavy school bags affect posture?
A heavy school bag can pull muscles that are present on the neck which can trigger headaches, shoulder pains and arm pains. To make things worse, if carried for a long time and in an unregulated manner, heavy bags can disturb a child’s posture, according to a report by India Today.
Younger students are more susceptible to these dangers as a child’s body is constantly growing and developing. Chances of their spines and skeletons getting deformed as a result of heavy school bags are higher than older students.
With inputs from agencies
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