The advisory circular by CBSE to its affiliated schools is a welcome step and all concerned should pay attention to it and try their best so that the problem of weight of bag can be handled and solved for the benefit of school going children. This should not remain confined to Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) affiliated schools only but should apply to all across the school board. The weight of bags and the stuff taken by the children to school has been increasing year by year. The text books, notebooks, art & craft copy, moral science books, grammar, literature, practical books are few in the list of the material carried by the children to the school. Not only this, as the schools are located away from the home of the children, they have to carry Tiffin boxes & water bottles also. The weight of the water bottle is around 500 grams and when it is filled with water (if it is one litre capacity bottle), then gross weight becomes about one & half Kgs. and this starts right from the age of three years onwards (pre-primary). My experience is that the students in senior secondary classes still are alright with the belongings they take to the school (if they attend), than the children of lower classes and in this also the condition of middle scholars is the worst and primary scholars are next in the line as the sufferers.
The other advice given, by CBSE, to schools is that the project work should be done in the school only. This is a good idea but has somebody tried to understand how much time children have in the school? The advisories without foreseeing the practical feasibility leaves everyone wondering and that is the reason, the noble intent also remains non-implemented. There was a circular by CBSE a few years ago where all the schools were asked to have at least one /two periods of games & sports for all children every day. Some people did raise question that how was it possible? I shall try to understand the same by considering a simple example. Suppose there is a school with four sections in each class and it caters to the students of classes I to XII. Then the number of sections would be 48 and number of students as 1970. If the school has 40 minutes period and 8 periods a day and break (recess) of 25-30 minutes, then total time (excluding assembly & activities) is around 360 minutes which comes out to be six hours. If we add the assembly time of half an hour and activities, then this comes out to be more than six & a half hours. I would like to find out how many primary, middle & secondary schools have this much time duration every day. Also the number of periods suggested by Central Board of Secondary Education for different subjects (excluding games & sports, dance, music, art & craft etc) works out (in IX –X) to be 39 and if added two periods each of games & sports, music, dance and art & craft and it is added then it is 47 periods. If we consider it to be a six days school, then it will be possible to manage this, but if it is five days school, then how does one adjust? This is when there are only two periods allotted to games & sports and if allot one period every day then the schools will not be able to have all academic subjects provided that number of period as required and desired. Also many schools do not have proper infrastructure in terms of games & sports. Every day, if there is one Games period, there will be eight or more sections in the play ground with approximately more than 240 students. But are there enough grounds available in all the schools or even the optimum size of the play ground? For this the timings of the schools should be increased to at least 7½ hours every day then only it is be possible. As mentioned earlier, the idea of no Home Works and project work to be completed in the schools is great but that would also require more time to be spent by the students in the schools. The problem of middle school children is further multiplied due to sixth subject as third language because of which they need to study an additional subject in comparison to primary & secondary school students. Also, the other reality should be paid substantial attention, whether we admit or not but most of the children right from primary classes onwards are forced by the parents for extra tuition, once they come back home. Though there is no survey done but people say that almost 50-60% children of primary schools, 70-80% of middle schools and more than 80% of secondary & senior secondary students go for tuition and the fact is most of them do not have any need of tuition, but the parents feel that if tuition is provided then the child would learn more and they (parents) would also be able to engage themselves in the work of their choice, otherwise the child would keep disturbing them. This way the students listen to others the entire day and get little time to think themselves. I wrote about the importance of Home Work before also and proved that Homework should not be given or taken as a punishment to the children but a joyful experience of learning. I have heard people talking in some functions and parties that now-a-days half yearly/SA-1 exams are on for kids, but in reality as if this was their own exam. Why does this situation come? First because the expectations of the parents to see their child as the topper and second because many children had not learnt the subject/topic well and even if they had done so in the class, the lack of practice & revision of the same as Home Work or otherwise made them to miss the learning. I shall keep repeating that nothing worthwhile is learnt until an individual tries self. The solution of the problems by others seems to be very easy but when done self that makes things real and that is why the children should be given time to think and rectify if they commit mistakes. This they will be able to do if they have time. The Home work or project work should not be taken as a burden rather as the reinforcement of learning which has taken place in the school. So, the amount of Home Work or number of project works should not be only for the grades but for learning reinforcement.
Furthermore, the weight of school bag is one serious problem when it comes to health but mental health is also equally important. Reducing and alleviating the things without realising the importance of that on the future of the children is also not right. I would like to suggest that the number of books and notebooks to be brought by the children should be checked by the school teachers and the parents. Sometimes the children do not change the books of the previous day but add anything which is required next day. Here, the parents and proper coordination among teachers can help children in the best way. I would suggest that the teachers may not ask all the children to bring books but they can share it in the classes on alternate days/ weeks. As such, as a teacher, I do not see any advantage of the books in the class when the teacher is there and he/she is well prepared. Also the number of notebooks (Home Works etc) can be easily reduced. For example, in spite of having grammar and literature notebooks separate, this can be one and same in other subjects. The other method of reducing the bag’s weight can be to do away with the practice of teaching all subjects every day. The schools can teach three subjects for three days and two/three subjects on other three days. This can be in continuation or alternate days.
The parents can play a significant role by checking the bag of the children every day. Most of the schools have proper water coolers etc., so the size of the water bottle can be halved. In spite of giving the heavy metallic bottle of one litre capacity, they can be provided light weight bottle of half litre capacity. The size of Tiffin box can also be checked accordingly. Another thing is the bag capacity should be such that even if the child wants to take more stuff to the school it should not fit in the bag. Because it has been observed that sometimes the parents purchase big and heavy bags for their children which even have the massive stroll weight.
The school should also try that the children upto class II are not given any structured Home Work. The books & notebooks of the students of these classes should be kept in the schools. I know some parents would always like to know the progress of their child. For this the parents can be allowed to access the notebooks on Saturdays (if the school is five days week) or after the school on some days fixed. This may take some time for the people to adapt to the system but this is not impossible and our children will be benefited immensely by the same. The health of the children is more important than anything else. Let them live their childhood and develop themselves as healthy and mentally alert citizens of their motherland.