New School Bag Policy: Government is Looking to Reduce Workload of Students

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The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 has been approved by Indian Government in July 2020. It proposes some extensive changes across Indian education system. From structural changes to amendments in learning and assessment practices, the new NEP advocates for groundbreaking initiatives to meet with the demands of new age. Serious influence of the pandemic has also shifted the mode of education towards collaborative learning. This develops the need for qualitative learning instead of quantitative. Following the recommendations of new education policy and the needs of future, the Government of India has taken an initiative towards this approach of qualitative learning in the form of new Policy of School Bag 2020. The Ministry of Education has decided to lessen the burden of studies by reducing the weight of the school bag ensuring that it should not exceed 10 per cent of the child’s weight.

Imagine one day students hear that from now on there will be no homework. Wouldn’t that be happy news for them? Well, this imagination is going to be a reality for students up to class two. The Education Ministry under the new school bag policy has banned homework up to second grade. No homework or less homework means students have to carry fewer books and notebooks.

What are the suggestions for school bag and homework for other classes? Would they continue to receive homework and how much a child’s school bag should weigh? And will this policy be beneficial for students or not after implementation in long run? All the answers to these questions are discussed in this article.

Recommendations for the reduction of weight of school bag in new policy:

The Ministry of Education observed that the school curriculum has a strong relation with the weight of the school bag. This curriculum includes subjects offered at different stages, homework, etc.  More number of subjects means students need to carry a lot of textbooks. This increases the quantity of homework and implies an additional weight of notebooks in the bag on daily basis. So, experts have made the following recommendations for the reduction of weight of school bag.

The average weight for school bags:

The new bag policy recommends every school to follow the above mentioned ratio of weight for school bag that is 10 per cent of the body weight of the student from classes I to XII.

Monitoring the weight of school bags:

Every school should keep a digital weighing machine on the school premises to check the weight of the school bags on regular basis.

Size and design of the school bags:

School bags need to be light-weighted with proper compartments. They must contain two padded and adjustable straps that can easily fit on both the shoulders. Bags with wheels should not be allowed because they might hurt children while climbing the stairs.

Mandatory facilities:

Schools are required to provide facilities like mid-day meals, school bag monitoring, etc. This reduces the burden of carrying a lunch box and other food items for children. To avoid the burden of carrying a water bottle, schools should ensure the good quality of potable water and its sufficient supply in the campuses.

A criterion for selecting a textbook:

This guideline of school bag policy suggests publishers to decrease the weight of a textbook and schools also need to choose lightweight textbooks.  For selecting a textbook for children, the criterion of weight should be taken into consideration. The weight of each textbook may be printed by the publishers, along with the Grams per Square Meter (GSM). The provision of a double set of books (separate set for home and school) should be made for Children with Special Needs (CWSN) from book banks in schools. And for storing their books, schools need to install lockers.

Subject offered:

If subjects are more it is obvious that textbooks should also be more in numbers. So, as per the National Curriculum Framework (NCF), a school shall offer different subjects in different classes.

Class Subjects
Classes I and II Two Language subjects and Mathematics  
Classes III, IV, and V Two Language subjects, Mathematics and Environmental Studies  
Classes VI to VIII Three Language subjects, Mathematics, Science and Social Science

Other subjects such as Computer Studies, Moral Education, General Knowledge, Life Skills, etc., need to be included in the main subjects. Other activities like Health and Physical Education, work experience and Sports and Arts Education should also be considered in the school timetable. These disciplines are essential as they help in the all-round development of children.  No books or any other materials should be carried by students for these subjects.

Homework time:

As per the recommendation of new policy, time for homework should be decided according to the class or standard of students. The main aim of assigning homework is to engage the child in the study and not to increase his/her burden.

Class Total Homework time
Primary (I and II) No homework
Primary (III to V) Maximum of two hours a week
Middle School (VI-VIII)   Maximum of one hour a day (about five to six hours a week)
Secondary and Higher Secondary (IX-XII) Maximum of two hours a day (about 10 to 12 hours a week)

Weight of the school bags:

The policy suggests a class wise range for the ratio of school bags as 10 per cent of the body weight.  For example:

Class Average Body Weight (in Kg) Bag Weight Range (in Kg)
Pre-primary 10-16 No bag
Class I 16-22 1.6-2.2
Class II 16-22 1.6-2.2
Class III 17-25 1.7-2.5
Class IV 17-25 1.7-2.5
Class V 17-25 1.7-2.5
Class VI 20-30 2-3
Class VII 20-30 2-3
Class VIII 25-40 2.5-4
Class IX 25-45 2.5-4.5
Class X 25-45 2.5-4.5
Class XI 35-50 3.5-5
Class XII 35-50 3.5-5

Other recommendations:

At the beginning of every academic session, schools require to organize the School Bag Awareness Programme with the parents. The issue related to heavy school bags should also be included in the curriculum of pre-service and in-service teacher education. As per the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) 2005, some vocational activities will be considered in the curriculum. The policy further recommends a practice-based curriculum for the students of grades 6 to 8. Teachers can give them creativity based homework like essay writing on contemporary issues. They can make students write articles about the problems in the locality, measures for saving electricity and petrol, etc.

Demerits of carrying heavy school bags:

The growing weight of school bags and its effect on the health of the children is a serious concern for every parent.  A large number of children suffer from growing deformities due to carrying heavy school bags. Children often carry their heavy bags on one shoulder which causes strain particularly to the neck and shoulders. Back pain and spinal abnormalities are extremely common in children as a result of carrying a heavyweight on their backs. The straps of the school bags also cause injury by interfering with the nerves and blood circulation.

Carrying heavy school bags causes long-term back problems with spinal deformity. It also gives birth to poor posture which creates difficulty for the child to function. Identification of these problems is extremely important at an early stage. Therefore, the government has taken few steps to reduce these problems arising due to heavy school bags. NEP 2020 also suggests some measures to reduce the burden of textbooks and homework that we discussed earlier.

Will the new Bag Policy be beneficial for education?

Since government has released new bag and homework policy, the question arises here is, will it be beneficial for the education system in the long run. Students have been studied different subjects with number of textbooks. In order to implement the new policy, there might be a need to reduce the number of subjects or making changes in the syllabus. And what are the alternatives and action plan when there will be reduced load of homework for students. Definitely, the suggestions seem to be providing relief for students at first place, but it is also need to be assessed that these policies do not affect learning in a negative way.

Implementation of School Bag Policy:

The School Bag Policy is a step taken towards good quality education. A good quality education develops the child from all aspects and hence encourages the holistic approach of learning. But to achieve this, only planning the policies is not sufficient. Proper and accurate implementation of the policies should also be ensured. For proper implementation of this School Bag Policy; schools, parents and government—all need to work together, towards forming plans for betterment of students otherwise it will create confusion and decrease the efficiency and effectiveness of education. Schools have to follow the instructions mentioned in the policy and the government has to check whether it is being properly implemented or not.

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