Given the numerous negative impacts on the physical, psychological and intellectual wellbeing of students, the Royal Education Council (REC) has again issued a circular to dzongkhag and thromde schools to put in place appropriate strategies to reduce the weight of bags students carry to school.
The March 23 circular states that the schools should also submit reports on the initiatives taken to the Council and education ministry.
The circular reiterates the suggestion that was made in April last year pertaining to the urgent need to reduce the weight of school bags. The recent circular states that it did not see any positive impact and none of the schools had implemented the suggestions or strategies.
REC director Kinga Dakpa, said that it was observed that many schools had not yet come up with initiatives and that students were still found carrying heavy bags. “The need for such initiative was suggested during the 18th National Education Conference held in December 2016,” he said.
Kinga Dakpa said that while conducting a survey on digitisation of textbooks, it was found that the existing system requires students to carry loads weighing anything between 5kg to 10kg over long distances of rough and arduous routes. The survey found that the practice was in contravention to the recommended load of 15 percent of their body weight besides the weight of lunch packs they carry.
“This means that a child weighing 20kgs should carry a load that weighs less than or equal to three kilograms or more,” the circular states.
A literature review also found that carrying heavy school bags has resulted in detrimental physical and health problems like body pain, forward bending, slouching, bad posture, stunted growth, poor lung function, and psychological stresses apart from long-term implication.
It was also found that stress could cause revulsion of school and low attention span leading to poor performance in studies.
It was for these reasons, the director said that REC had suggested alternatives to the schools such as reducing the number of books students carry by preparing timetable where only few subjects have classes, implementing homework policies to have only one or two homework a day, not requiring students to use or carry multiple notebooks for a single subject, and installing lockers or shelves in their classrooms.
“Some of the suggestions include reducing the weight of notebooks by not requiring to buy thick books (No 10) or covering the book that is already glossy,” he said. “We can also provide clean drinking water in school and require parents to bring lunch to school although it may not be practical.”
However, the circular stated that the effort should not come at the cost of the teaching-learning process in the schools.
Kinga Dakpa added that although it is not necessary that schools implement the suggestions immediately, it is expected that they start working on it or come up with their own initiatives.
“But the idea is to make sure that students do not carry heavy school bags and it is important that this is carried out even if it is hard to implement,” he said. “We’ll wait for about seven months and if it is not implemented, then we will write to the education ministry.”
Meanwhile, some school principals Kuensel talked to said that the schools are still working on how to implement the initiatives mentioned after discussing with teachers.
Some principals said that they are also working on the homework policy to make sure students are given only two subject homework a day.
However, many said that the school would have to propose for a budget to implement a locker system in the school. They said they would be able to implement the initiative only after the summer break since students have already bought the books.
Few shared that the issue with heavy school bags is common for day scholars than central and other boarding schools.
Yangchen C Rinzin