Novel scheme for lighter school bags gathers dustJune 1st, 2008 - 11:02 am ICT by admin
By Sanjay Singh
New Delhi, June 1 (IANS) Making school a bag-free experience is a tempting thought. Two years ago the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government initiated a policy for lighter school bags. But it is a practice that remains noble only in thought. No state or union territory except Chandigarh is following it.
Heavy school bags can affect the spine of schoolchildren. Medical studies have shown that 60 percent of children who carry backpacks that weigh more than 20-25 percent of their body weight are more likely to develop backaches.
What’s worse, a heavy backpack also leads to bad posture. In the long run, children might develop abnormal curves and spinal deformities.
But schools seem to have done little about it.
Sooraj Prakash, the principal of a public school run by the Central Reserve Police Force here, said it was yet to receive any circular on school bag loads.
“Even if we reduce bag loads in school, parents would be suspicious. They would doubt if their child is actually being taught in school. Mindsets need to change before we go ahead with reducing school bag loads,” observes Prakash.
The school bag business is thriving. School bag manufacturers in Delhi have received huge orders for bags from schools and shop owners for this academic year, which will begin in right earnest after the ongoing summer vacations.
“We have received about 150,000 orders for school bags from schools and shop owners this year. This is 30,000 more than the orders we received last year,” claims Syed Shahnawaz Alam, a manager with Tycoon Sales Private Limited, a bulk supplier of school bags in the capital.
According to Alam, a bag-free school education is a remote possibility.
“Schools will have to put in place huge infrastructure like lockers for students. I don’t see it happening in the near future,” says Alam.
The problem of heavy school bags was highlighted in a seminal report titled “Learning without Burden” in 1993 by the then government.
Even the National Curriculum Framework (NCF), 2005, recommended a reduction of physical, psychological and transactional load on school children.
Based on the NCF, new syllabi and textbooks were prepared by the National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT). The NCF suggested that there should be no school bags and homework for children till Class 5.
Although the union human resource development ministry has issued guidelines on school bag loads, it feels helpless.
“Education is a state subject. The central government can do little to enforce a concept like free bag schooling in states,” said D.K. Gautam, director of elementary education in the ministry.
But Father Sabu Joseph, the principal of the Rosary Church School here, says his school had successfully introduced “smart classes” - technology friendly classes that will reduce the book load.
“With smart classes, we aim to increase more activity-ased learning among students and make teaching more meaningful. Also, time tables for classes have been planned out judiciously to avoid unnecessary loading of school bags,” he said.
Reena Ray, secretary (education) in the Delhi government, told IANS that the big loads could be reduced provided schools took the lead in kicking off the concept.
The bad news for children is that bags are getting heavier with every passing year.
(Sanjay Singh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)