Centre Limits School Bag Weight, Homework in New Policy Meant to Promote Students’ Well‑Being
The Ministry of Education has issued guidelines limiting the weight of school bags students carry and the amount of homework teachers assign. The new guidelines are part of a larger policy update aimed at improving students’ well-being.
The circular accompanying the policy document “requests” education secretaries of every state and union territory to “kindly adopt relevant suggestions” under the policy, and “ensure their implementation within your jurisdiction.” It further added: “The compliance report in this regard may be shared with this department [Education Ministry].” However, the circular doesn’t mention any penalty for failure to implement the recommendations.
Studies have noted that carrying heavy backpacks, especially weighing more than 10% of a student’s body weight, has “significant biomechanical, physiological and discomfort impacts on the wearer,” manifesting as changes in posture and gait due to pressure on joints and ligaments and increases in physical discomfort, fatigue, and even breathing rate. A 2016 survey by the ASSOCHAM had found that more than 88% of children aged 7 to 13 carry more than 45% of their weight in school bags.
“Excessive and uneven loads are linked to an increased risk of back trouble and deformation of the spine. Early slip disc, spondylitis, spondylolisthesis, persistent backaches, early degeneration of spine, and postural scoliosis are some of the problems that these children face,” B. K. Rao, chairman of ASSOCHAM’s health committee, had told The New Indian Express, adding that it may also “affect the growth of the musculoskeletal system.”
The School Bag Policy 2020, accompanied by the circular seeking its implementation, was shared in November by the Education Ministry to governing bodies across states and union territories. The policy document’s recommendations are based on various studies and surveys, including personal interactions with “parents, teachers, medical practitioners, students, and school administrator[s] on the issue of school bag[s],” the paper states. It further notes the new policy is in line with the National Education Policy 2020 and would be revised to reflect any modifications in it.
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In addition, the policy recommends keeping a functional digital weighing machine in the school premises to monitor the weights of backpacks on a regular basis.
In order to ensure implementation of the 10% rule, the policy asks schools to make “good quality potable water in sufficient quantity” available and accessible to students, so that they aren’t forced to carry heavy bottles. Further, it also instructs schools mandated to provide mid-day meals to ensure “adequate and of good quality” food so that students do not have to carry tiffin boxes. The recommendations also include instructions for the heads of schools “to ensure a fair distribution of textbook weight per day for students of classes 1 to 12.”
The policy document also states that up to class 2, students should not be given homework since they are “too small to sit for long hours doing homework;” for students between classes 3 to 5, homework should comprise a maximum of two hours of homework per week; students between classes 6 to 8 can be given homework of a maximum of an hour a day; and two hours of homework can be assigned every day for children in classes 9 to 12.
“[Children’s] good health and stress-free mind will contribute to nation-building. Therefore, it needs to be made mandatory that every school irrespective of its management — government, government-aided, unaided — ensures the implementation of [the policy] for the betterment of our children,” the policy concludes.
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