A Worthy Initiative – Lightening the School Going Children’s Load
Students in schools across Tamil Nadu will soon have a spring in their step, with their schoolbags reduced to half their weight from the next academic year. Under the trimester system of education to be introduced in the next academic year, students of classes 1 to 4 will be required to carry one textbook instead of four, and those in classes 5 to 8 will carry two textbooks instead of five.
The state has tried to reduce the weight of schoolbags from 3kg to 1.5kg for a class 1 or class 2 student. A class 8 student, who now lugs a 7kg bag to school, will have to carry a bag weighing a more reasonable 3.75 kg. While textbooks for classes 1 to 4 will have around 30 pages and cover four subjects, those for classes 5 to 8 will have language lessons clubbed with other subjects in one book of 60 pages.
The move will ensure that a student carries a maximum of 10% of his or her bodyweight. Health experts consider even this too heavy for children in the age group.
A study conducted on 200 schoolboys by the Movement Analysis Lab of Srinivas College of Physiotherapy and Research Centre and Kasturba Medical College, Mangalore, found that bags weighing 5% of the bodyweight of the child could affect the trunk and lower limbs and those weighing 15% of body weight could adversely affect the head, neck, trunk and the lower limbs, and change the overall posture of the child.
“It upsets me to see my son carrying such a heavy schoolbag,” said Santhosh Swaminathan, father of a class 6 student of a private matriculation school in the city. “I’m glad to know that the weight of schoolbags will be reduced.”
Schools affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education have already attempted to reduce the weight of schoolbags. The schools have asked students to do their homework online or their assignments on worksheets.
“They even weighed our schoolbags and announced the heaviest bag at morning assembly to get us to carry lighter bags,” said Satish, a student of Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan, Nungambakkam. A couple of years ago, CBSE issued circulars to schools, saying the number of textbooks for a particular class should not exceed the number prescribed by the National Council of Education Training and Research.
The board asked schools to provide space for bags of children up to Class 2 so they would not have to carry them to school and back, and make changes to introduce alternatives to homework. Earlier this year, 14 schools in Delhi, Baroda, Bangalore and Nagpur started using ClassPad, a personalized educational tablet, to replace books for high school students. “It’s good to know that the weight of the schoolbag will be reduced for children in the smaller classes. But older students have no choice but to carry their books. However, worksheets can be used as alternatives to notebooks,” said R J Bhuvanesh, CEO of Kaligi Ranganathan Montfort Group of Schools.
Students have more to cheer about than lighter schoolbags. The academic workload will also be cut with the introduction of the Comprehensive and Cumulative Evaluation system from classes 1 through 8 from the academic year 2012-13. “The mistakes in the previous Samacheer Kalvi textbooks have been corrected and the CCE system will be included this year,” said K Devarajan, director of the directorate of teacher education, research and training. Students were kept guessing about their textbooks for two months after schools reopened last year, but they will not have to worry a repeat.