Every morning when I pack my younger son’s school bag, it’s a bagful of mixed feelings for me. The bag really gets heavy for a 6 year old, first standard child. There are the books, tiffins (2 of them one for the short break and the other for their lunch break) and the raincoat. My child is taller and bigger built than many others in his age group, I really wonder how the children manage this. They might have to climb stairs to reach their classrooms on the second or the third floor of the school building. The elder one’s don’t even ask… 4th grade has more subjects and ultimately more books! I am sure it’s the concern of every parent.
In fact there is an ongoing concern regarding the weight of children’s schoolbags and the impact of such heavy loads on their developing spine. It is certainly a stress for the children. It becomes a bigger concern in the middle school age group. The spine is at a critical stage of development in children between 12 – 14 years of age. This is also the stage at which the bag weight to body weight ratio is likely to be high as some students are still quite small but carry loads similar to bigger built and older children.
A general guideline of 10% body weight, initially proposed by Voll and Klimt in 1977, continues to be the recommended guideline when carrying a backpack- style schoolbag. Some recent studies have reported that carrying a heavy schoolbag contributes to musculoskeletal pain in children. This really requires some serious thought and solution on the issue of the heavy school bags!
I also wonder when every other thing is going from big to small, heavy to light weight, thin to ultra slim then why isn’t that applicable to the children’s school bags? It is an important accessory, children take so much time and pride in selecting their school bags. Boys have a range of bags that they select from and girls have another range to choose. They come in so many fancy designs and shapes. Parents and schools have the responsibility to see what best they can do to keep the load of the backpack bags manageable and safe for the children.
How can we reduce the weight of the school bag?
Here are a few guidelines suggest by Education Bureau of Hong Kong.
1. Conducting campaign on reducing the weight of school bags to draw the attention of teachers, parents and pupils to the issue.
2. Conducting random check on the weight of school bags and informing parents if bags are found overweight.
3. Mobilising parents to help weighing school bags to arouse awareness of the issue.
4. Using other learning materials to replace textbooks in the learning of some topics.
5. Reducing the use of workbooks and replacing them by loose-leaf worksheets.
6. Keeping pupils’ new exercise books and issuing them to pupils only when needed.
7. Setting the maximum number of assignments for each subject as part of the homework policy.
8. Allotting a tutorial period in the timetable for pupils to complete part of their homework at school.
9. Scheduling PE and Art and Craft lessons for different days.
10. Allowing pupils to wear sportswear instead of school uniforms for days with PE lessons.
11. Encouraging the use of drinking fountains and advising pupils not to bring drinking water to school.
Schools and parents can join hands to make studies fun for children and school bags much lighter. After all, the foundation of a strong nation is laid on the core strength (spines) of the young boys and girls who’ll propel India into the next phase of development.
Picture Courtesy: Google,The Hindu, with due credits.