41-year-old Anandkumar Khalas, the principal of Bhagad Government School in Bhagad, reassembled the primary section’s entire syllabus into 10 books, one to be studied each month. This means that the students need only carry one book to class a month along with the minimal necessities.
According to a report in Times of India, the innovative solution has helped slash bag weight from 2-5 kg to as little as under a kilogram.
The idea was hailed as a big achievement by the Gujarat Council of Educational Research and Training (GCERT).
Since November last year after the Human Resource and Development Ministry passed a directive for schools to try and reduce the bag weight of students, several schools have come up with various solutions to the problem.
According to the guidelines issued by the Department of School Education and Literacy, schools are expected to make sure that students are “not asked to bring additional books — extra materials and weight of the school bag should not exceed the following limit,”.
While the maximum weight of school bags for students of Classes 1 and 2 can be 1.5 kg, for Classes 3 to 5, it should not exceed 2-3 kg. For Classes 6 and 7, it should stay within 4 kg, for Classes 8 and 9 it should be lighter than 4.5 kg, and should not exceed 5 kg for Class 10.
As per NCERT guidelines, a student’s bag weight cannot exceed 10 percent of their body weight. However, several reports suggest that bags often exceed the prescribed limit.
A survey conducted by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India found that over 88 percent of children from seven to 13 carry more than 45 percent of their body weight on their backs. The study covered 2,500 children and 1,000 parents in major cities and further stated that 68 percent of pre-teen children might be suffering from mild back pain, which can develop into chronic back pain, and later into a hunchback.
Experts have said that a shift to e-books and e-learning can help with the issue of reducing the physical workload on children.
In the November circular, the HRD Ministry circular further added that homework shall not be assigned to the students of Classes 1 and 2. “Schools should not prescribe any other subjects except Language and Mathematics for class 1 and 2; Language, EVS, and Mathematics for class III to V as prescribed by the NCERT”.
Courts have also made observations on heavy schools bags that students are forced to carry. The Bombay High Court had recently asked the state government on its progress towards implementing the Center’s instructions. The Madras High Court, too, had said in May that children are not weightlifters.
This is notthe first time that efforts are being made in Gujarat to reduce the physical burden of school going children, especially in the primary section.
In 2017, the Gujarat government announced the first of its kind ‘Gyankunj’ scheme that promised to digitize education by providing tablets to 2,051 government schools, The Indian Express reported in June of the year. The tablets were meant to replace books and in effect schoolbags, thus reducing the children’s burden and also improving the condition of government schools in the state.