Loten Zangmo

Almost three years after the Royal Education Council (REC) sent circulars to dzongkhags and thromdes, recommending schools to install lockers or shelves in classrooms so that students need not carry heavy bags, it was found most schools have not installed either.

Many teachers say schools could not install lockers or shelves because of budget and space constraints.

They claim they had instead adopted a homework policy where there was a timetable to ensure all teachers did not give homework to students at the same time.

A school principal said the homework policy ensured students carry only a few books every day. “They carry books on subjects that have homework.”

Tsimalakha Middle Secondary School’s principal, Phuntsho Tashi, said the school adopted a homework schedule based on the age of the students. “We don’t give homework for students studying from pre-primary to class three. For students of class four to six, they will be given a subject to study for 30 minutes. For students of class seven to nine, we give two subjects where they can study for an hour.”

The principal of Udzorong Central School in Trashigang, Sithar Dendup, said they implemented homework policy once but did not follow it anymore, as most students were studying as boarders. “We’ve only a few day scholar students but they also live nearby.”

Meanwhile, teachers also explained students did not follow the homework policy but took all their books home, as they feared the books might get stolen.

“Without proper locker, students don’t feel safe to keep their books in the class,” a teacher said.

Students in Thimphu disagreed on the homework policy.

Students claimed many teachers give them homework together and not many followed the homework policy.

“Carrying heavy bags exhausts us physically,” a student said. “I walk to and from school every day.”

Online sources indicate carrying heavy school bags cause problems like body pain, forward bending, slouching, bad posture, stunted growth, poor lung function, and psychological stresses, apart from long-term implications.

REC’s specialist chief, Ugyen Dorji, said they could not follow up if schools had followed their recommendation. “But if they implemented a homework policy, it shows our recommendation had an impact.”

He, however, said they were now developing an online learning management system (LMS) where projects and homework could be submitted online.

Ugyen Dorji said LMS is currently implemented in three schools in Paro and three schools in Thimphu as a pilot project. “Boarder students are allowed to access from the computer lab since they aren’t allowed to use gadgets.”

He also said REC has made all the textbooks available on their website www.rec.gov.bt. “Students can access textbooks online without carrying them home.”