Realising that heavy school bags could damage children’s spine, Maharashtra government recently set up a committee to suggest solutions to make the backpacks lighter.
The committee may take a while to come up with its recommendations, and hence several schools in the city have decided to take the matter into their own hands by introducing innovative practices to reduce the children’s load.
While international schools are planning to replace textbooks with e-books, state-board schools are not far behind.
Aware that the syllabus requires students to carry several books every day, many state-board schools have provided them with lockers on campus. A few institutions are following a ‘no bags’ policy for primary students and ‘worksheet system’ for others.
At St Stanislaus School, Bandra, students do not have to carry bags to schools till Class 4. They are not given any homework. Instead, teachers provide students with worksheets that they have to solve in the class. Students also have lockers to store their books or art and craft material.
“We noticed that heavy school bags were leading to chronic back pain and bad posture from an early age,” said Father Jude Fernandes, principal of the school. “As the government has approved worksheets for students, we use them for class work. They are kept in files inside the class.”
Bal Mohan School, Dadar, not only follows the worksheet system, but also has tweaked its timetable to ensure that students do not have too many subjects a day. “Every day, we ensure that among the regular 10 periods, at least one period, like art or PT, is such that children are not required to carry any books,” said Rupa Roy, principal. “We also hold double periods of a subject.”
However, when it comes to higher classes, these initiatives have not been of much help.
“Once students enter the secondary and higher secondary section, we cannot limit the number of books,” said Meenakshi Walke, principal, Indian Education Society’s Sule Guruji Vidyalaya, Dadar. “Also, many attend coaching classes before or after school, so they also end up carrying those books with them.”
Comparatively, non-state board schools have been more successful in reducing the students’ burden in higher classes, as they have more flexibility in terms of syllabus.
Affiliated to the Council of Indian School Certificate Examinations, Thane’s Smt Sulochanadevi Singhania School has eliminated excessive books by having one-book policy for students from Classes 5 to 7.
“The school follows an in-house curriculum, making it possible for it to have one textbook that includes all the subjects,” said Revathy Srinivasan, principal. “Although students have to carry textbooks from Class 7 onwards, they do not have to carry any notebooks. Instead, they just have to carry a few sheets of paper.”
However, parents claim these measures have not been able to limit the extra study material that needs to be carried by students for extra-curricular activities. “My child carries half-drawn images and a complete colour kit for drawing periods, and skates, swim bag and cricket kit for sports for certain days,” said Amruta Shetty, a parent from Bhayandar. “The school locker is not big enough to fit in all of this. A government policy is urgently needed to unburden our kids.”