School Without School Bags: The Only Way To Rid Students Of The Weight Of School Bags

We saw that School Bag Policy 2020 is a casual and miserable attempt to help students. The recommendations of School Bag Policy 2020 increase the weight of school bags further. So, how to deal with the issue? The solution is simple – School Without School Bags.

There are a host of recommendations that academicians/learning experts/schools/courts/activists – in short – Adults will come up with to reduce the weight of school bags. Each of these measures is a tried and tested failure. Yet, they keep going around serving no purpose whatsoever.

Let’s go through this list of failures to convince us that there is no other solution than a school without school bags.

The Failed Recommendations

The locker @ schools: If schools do have the bandwidth for additional space and infrastructure, they rather use it for play-grounds and spacious classrooms. Not a feasible concept for the majority of schools.

Replace books with tablets: Another impractical suggestion. Till the time, the students are rid of written exams, the books can’t get replaced.

Bagless Days: Well, the children face the issue of carrying the weight of school bags on all the days and not on just one day of the week. Is the objective to get rid of the burden on one day and then, pile it up on other days?

Students to be given food and water in school: Apart from mid-day meal serving Government schools and high-end private schools that last for the whole day, other schools can’t follow this dictum. Is it practically possible for 500 + students to drink water in 20-30 minutes from 5-10 taps (and they drink water in the last 5-10 minutes of the recess and not the first 10-15 minutes)?

Moreover, it is not lunch boxes and water bottles that make the weight of school bags but notebooks, textbooks, reference books and the lot. This recommendation is barking at the wrong tree.

School bags to be made of lighter material: Arre, why don’t they get it? It is not the school bag that is heavy, what is inside the bag, that is heavy. Another option shooting from the hip.

  • Notebooks will be made of 40 pages, hence it will be lighter.
  • Schools will follow the semester/trimester pattern. Books will be divided into 2/3 parts, hence they will be lighter.
  • Students will be given two sets of textbooks, one for home and one for school.
  • Schools can have block/double periods of the same subject. Hence, students need to carry lesser books.

And who will keep track of these multiple sets of books? The poor child has more than enough to lift, now he/she will have more than enough to keep count/tally of. She/he might end up carrying every set of books – home/school/finished/unfinished, increasing the weight further. It is sheer torture to keep studying the same subject for one and a half hour or more. Only the adults can come up with inane suggestions like this. Give the poor child a break.

Please bring up other options, if any and you can see for yourself that they are unworkable too. If you feel otherwise and are convinced about the feasibility of any of the suggestions above to reduce the weight of school bags, please show them in a live application in more than 5 schools.

School Without School Bags

The student spends 5-8 hours in school. After that, the poor fellow has to attend tuitions/coaching classes, now the study apps also get added to the list. Further, consider sports/dance/music/any other classes of the parent’s choice. The child has to have screen time too. Where is the time for him/her to study at home? Then, why not keep the school bag at school only?

Where to keep the school bag in school? There are no locker/shelves? But, why do you need one? There is nothing that happens in the classroom once the students leave. The school bag can very well be left on the student’s desk. What’s the worry about safety? It is a school, after all. Not a place for pick-pockets.

The student has to do homework, so he/she needs to carry books home. But, I suppose the expert group appointed by the Ministry of Education has said that there is no homework up to Class II, a maximum of two hours a week from Classes III-V, middle school (from Classes VI-VIII), a maximum of one hour a day.

For this minimal work, what is the need to carry the entire school bag? Why not keep homework books at home and send the snap-shots to the teacher for checking? This is claimed to be happening during the online learning of the COVID-19 period, why not co-opt changes during the normal period?

The student has to do project work. Well, project work requires a different set of materials and books altogether. Let’s not club it with the regular school bag.

What about tuitions/coaching classes? They give their own study-material. They have no use of what is carried in a school bag.

But, the student has to study for exams. The poor chap is being continuously taught in schools/coaching classes/tuitions/apps. Do you really feel that he/she needs to study further for exams?

Please bring up other doubts, if any and you can see for yourself that they would get resolved too.

The Nostalgia Crap

  • Banning school bags will make children lazier and they will always seek a comfortable life.
  • Without school bags, the school life of children remains incomplete.
  • For school going kids, their bag is their treasure box where they keep all their important things.
  • The school bag is also a measure of teaching children to be responsible for their belongings.

The above points and any other similar ideas are pure and unadulterated nonsense. Anybody raising them shows the uselessness of the Indian education system that they claim to have studied in.

It only means that the adults, who lifted school bags in their childhood, cannot imagine a school without school bags for today’s children. Their attitude is more like, I had to bear the burden, so should you. Can you really expect these childish adults to solve any damn issue, leave aside the weight of school bags?

In short

Did anyone ever consider that Indian students will study from home for one full year and they will be fine? Well, everyone claims to have done exactly that and doing well. Desperate times of COVID-19, desperate measures of online learning, one would say.

Similarly, the weight of school bags is a desperate problem deserving of a creative measure. All the solutions devised till now have not worked. Why not re-phrase the question? Why not question the utility of carrying a school bag from home to school and back to home? It is absolutely not serving any purpose in today’s education system. It can very well be left at school and that should be fine.

To be honest, I don’t see any wrong in the idea of school without school bags. What about you?

PS: I am a stay-at-home father to six-year-old twin daughters, neither an educationist nor an expert. The above thoughts are an expression of parenting is having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.

Stand UP, Speak OUT!!! #IAmAParent.

School Bag Policy 2020: Weight Of School Bags Increases Further

I have written about how School Bag Policy 2020 is a casual and miserable attempt to help students. The policy is such a wretched document that just the primer and the notification took up an entire article. In fact, each sentence of the policy is such a gem in itself that even an epic cannot do justice to its marvellous and spectacular silliness and stupidity.

Anyhow, to keep the discussion short and save you the long-winded road to nowhere, let’s go directly to the recommendations in the School Bag Policy 2020 for the reduction in the weight of school bags.

Pass The Buck To Parents And Students

Sample some of the advice put forth in School Bag Policy 2020:

  • School Bag Awareness Programme needs to be held in the beginning of every academic session, wherein parents and students would get orientation on this issue.
  • Information about the heavy bag needs to be communicated to the parents of the child and the bag needs to be monitored for a week or two for ensuring that the child starts carrying a lighter bag.
  • Counseling sessions for students to bring lighter school bags. Parents are asked to monitor the weight of school bag.

Does the policy imply that it is a hobby of students to lug heavy school bags to schools? Does the policy assume that every parent wants their child to be a champion weight-lifter and hence deck them up with the hefty school bags? Or is there a hypothesis that each day children carry some kind of hidden treasure from their respective homes to unload into the schools?

Each parent of a school-going child and the child will vouch that they have no say in what’s to be carried to schools each day. The schools barrel them down with textbooks and reference books, notebooks and activity books, diaries and journals etc. What options do the parents and the children have apart from toeing the line, paying the bills and hauling the school bags?

Who needs to attend the School Bag Awareness Programme? The parents and the children or the flawed educational establishment? The schools themselves have stuffed the school bags and mandated them to be carried in full. What purpose does the information to the parents about the heavy bags serve? Who needs counseling here? The expert group who drew up the School Bag Policy 2020 is a sure-shot candidate, but the students???

Cloud Cuckoo Land

The reality as mentioned by the expert group is in stark reality to the flight of fantasy recommendations arrived at by the same fanciful group, in the same report.

The reality: In Classes I-II, the homework hours vary from 0 to 2 hours daily. Whereas, for Classes III onwards, it varies from 2 to 5 hours daily.

The recommendation: NO homework up to Class II and a maximum of two hours a week from Classes III-V.

The expert group knows that children are loaded with homework. Yet, it makes a pious announcement that there shall be no homework going ahead. Who is going to ensure the implementation of this cuckoo recommendation?

The reality: Though only 2 subjects are recommended for Class I-II, yet many schools offer other subjects. For Classes III-V, beyond NCF-2005 recommendations, there is a range of subjects which is offered by the schools.

The recommendation: As per the NCF-2005, schools shall offer two Languages and Mathematics in Classes I-II and two Languages, Mathematics and Environmental Studies in Classes III-V.

Nation Curriculum Framework 2005 exists since 2005. Yet, the schools do not follow it. What makes the expert group think that now suddenly the schools will consider it a gospel?

The reality: Schools prescribe more than one textbook for the same subject in secondary and higher secondary classes.

What? Leave aside school bags, why not penalize these schools for violating basic norms?

The expert group has unearthed all the above reality in their survey. And the expert group knows very well that the schools are a law unto themselves and there is no curbing their behaviour. Yet, it gives sermons to follow the laid-down directives that nobody has followed till now, not following as on date and not going to follow in future.

The Other Gems

  • The issues related to heavy school bag need to be included in the pre-service and in-service teacher education curriculum.
  • Designing of textbooks with less information and more space to experiential learning.
  • Students need to be taught on how to use ‘filing’ in an efficient and intelligent way.

Well, I am going to stop here. Hope you get the picture.

In nutshell, the National School Bag Policy 2020 is full of inanities and absurd recommendations.

Ministry of Education, CBSE, NCERT, Schools, Expert Group – are aware of what goes into the making of a heavy school bag. They, themselves, are part of the problem and they cannot be expected to arrive at a solution. With them at the helm of affairs and their beloved School Bag Policy 2020, the weight of school bags is only going to increase further.

The real solution is fair and simple – School Bag Free Education. I will write about it in the next article.

PS: I am a stay-at-home father to six-year-old twin daughters, neither an educationist nor an expert. The above thoughts are an expression of parenting is having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.

Stand UP, Speak OUT!!! #IAmAParent.

School Bag Policy 2020: A Casual And Miserable Attempt To Help Students

Ministry of Education, Government of India released School Bag Policy 2020 on 24th November 2020. One might think that now the load of the school children has been taken care of. The children and the parents can have a sigh of relief. Finally, the issue of “weight of school bags” has been resolved.

Wrong on all the counts. The so-called School Bag Policy 2020 has nothing, repeat nothing, to lessen the burden of school children. At best, it is a casual and miserable attempt to address a crucial issue and ends up doing a disservice to the future generations of the country.

Let’s go through what the School Bag Policy 2020 has to offer.

The Primer

School Bag Policy 2020 is an 83-page document. A policy expected to lighten the weight is itself bulky. You would suppose the Government policies are meant to be cumbersome. Else, what’s the proof of the long-winded deliberations made?

It has been drawn up by an expert group of 7 administrators and academicians. You would wonder why the parents and the primary stake-holders i.e. the children would not get to discuss and decide on an issue that affects them the most. Well, that is not how the know-all and decide-all Indian Government is known to function.

The policy has been made in reference to the judgment of Madras High Court dated 19.05.2018, a good two and a half years before the policy announcement date. The Expert Group members met four times from October to December 2018, so that the report could finally see the light of the day 2 years later. But, again you would know that the wheels of the Government move slowly.

The policy refers to Learning without Burden, Report of the Yash Pal Committee, (MHRD, 1993); The Children’s School Bag (Limitation on Weight) Bill, 2006; CBSE Circular No.07.2006 on Subject – Reducing the Bag Load on Children and 4 other documents of guidelines/measures/decisions on managing the weight of school bags.

You would wonder if such has been the history of our failed attempts to rein in the weight of school bags, how the latest one will succeed. Needless to say, the current one does not list earlier efforts as failures or mentions any learning from them. Anyway, the Government is not expected to be backward looking, so that should be fine.

The Notification

The order of the Under Secretary to the Govt. Of India notifying the School Bag Policy 2020 mentions that “the School Bag Policy would be suitably modified/revised”. This is beyond belief. I mean what can be more meaningless than this.

You are announcing a certain policy after so much huffing and puffing. And when you do it, you say in the same breath that it will be changed. Then, what’s the whole purpose of huffing and puffing? Why not publish the policy after “suitable modification/revision”? But, I suppose all these are trivial to the mighty Indian Government. Maybe, another expert group is already in the pipeline. Who knows?

The notification mentions “The compliance report in this regard may be shared with this Department”. That’s it. No mention of the format/frequency/scope/process/time-line of the compliance report. No mention, at all. You would suppose the compliance report is a top-secret hush-hush affair. The lesser mortals should not get to know how Government compliance happens.

You would think the notification will list the essence of the policy or the major recommendations of the policy. Again wrong. The notification tom-toms the NEP 2020 and nothing but the NEP 2020. From the phrasing of the notification, you would be forgiven to believe that it is for the promotion of NEP 2020 and not about some abstract notion of School Bag Policy 2020. Well, the Government has to multi-task, beyond the understanding of common citizens.

Meaning of School Bag

The expert group has elucidated the meaning of school bag as per the Collins English Dictionary and Cambridge English Dictionary “verbatim” for reference. You would just love these guys, wouldn’t you? I mean they take the weight of school bags so literally and exactly – the physical load. Unless for them, how would anyone know the meaning of the words “school bag”?

The expert group would not venture into the mental load of non-comprehension i.e. the curriculum load. To be fair to them, they have mentioned it once and I have picked the terminology from them. But that’s about it and no further. Maybe, it is another expert group’s weighing up – the mental load on the school children.

Casual And Miserable

Well, I did not take up the School Bag Policy 2020 for an enlightening on the insipid working of the Government of India. But, that’s what happened before I reached the main contents of the much-awaited but utterly indecisive and faltering policy. The Government’s approach is casual and miserable, to say the least.

Does anyone really expect a Government policy made with so much preponderance to help children in any manner possible? Spending a precious two and half years to come up with a wishy-washy policy not even worth the paper it will be printed upon is surely not an approach to deal with an essential issue of India’s future generations. India’s children deserve better.

Please read here, the recommendations of the School Bag Policy 2020 and how it will further increase the weight of school bags.

PS: I am a stay-at-home father to six-year-old twin daughters, neither an educationist nor an expert. The above thoughts are an expression of parenting is having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.

Stand UP, Speak OUT!!! #IAmAParent.

Entrance Exams Bypass Childhood To Adulthood Rat Race

These days, the conversation about the kids starts with the only question: “Which School?” We answer that our six-year-old twin daughters do not go to school because they are children. Invariably, regardless of the background of the person, the second question tossed to us has been “But then what about the entrance exams?”

The follow-up questions could have been raised about their learning, education, exposure, interactions, experiences etc for they do not go to school. We, parents, could have been grilled about our thinking and approach for not sending our daughters to school. However, none of these queries gets raised. The second question has always been about the entrance exams.

I don’t get this, at all. Why should anyone raise a question about an event that is a decade down the line? That too, with an air of certainty that the said event is a must-happen occurrence which the child should/must/ has to compulsorily get through. Why the rush? What’s the hurry? Why the unreserved single-minded focus and dedication for entrance exams?

Entrance Exams Are The Reality

I agree that the people who raise a concern about our six-years-old daughters’ lack of preparation for entrance exams have a valid point. In the Indian context, that’s the only point. It is true that unless for the entrance exams, the child does not seem to have a future in today’s India when s/he grows up to be an adult.

Be it the JEE/NEET/CAT/CLAT/CA/CS/IAS or whatever/wherever, there is no escaping the claws of the entrance exams. The private institutions, not to be left behind, have entrance exams of their own. The Institutes of Eminence need to be Eminent. So, how do they go about it? Entrance exams, of course (if only, the world rankings were based on the number of students taking the entrance exams).

There is nothing “New” in the New Education Policy (NEP) to make tomorrow’s India any different from today vis-à-vis entrance exams. When there is no alternative, when there is no notion of a substitute, what really is left to be done? Fall in line and fight it out for the endangered seats. It is a dog-eat-dog world when it comes to college admissions – public/private, JNU/Amity, even fly-by-night!!

All these mean that as soon as a child is born, s/he starts getting wired to be prepared for the impending entrance exams. That’s what the “well-meaning” people ask us when we tell that our children do not go to school. Just that the meaning remains limited to the future of the child decade from today and not today per se. What’s the fuss about childhood?

The Double-Standard Adults

Ask any adult. What’s the life-stage they would want to re-live? What are the memories they cherish? The answer will be childhood. There is a distinct possibility that an adult of today might have an abused childhood. In this case, re-draft the question: What’s the life-stage they would want to re-live “better”? The answer, again, will be childhood.

Today’s adult (parents and grand-parents included) attaches utmost importance to his/her by-gone childhood. But, the same adult has scant regard for the childhood of his/her children. S/he cannot think beyond the entrance exams. What else?

Ask any adult. What do you think where would you be a decade from today? Please list out the sacrifices for today basis the deliverables to your family in future. For example, save on your OTT subscriptions so that the child’s future can be invested in. A realistic question: What’s the contingency plan should you lose your job/vocation? In all probability, the said adult will laugh/scream out.

The adult that cannot plan for his/her future, essentially no thoughts or at best, some hazy ideas, has already thought through the child’s future and put into action. Entrance exams. What else?

As adults, we say that we prioritize creativity, fresh ideas, out-of-box thinking (I would have used more jargons, but I left the corporate job 4 years back). We say that individuality matters. What’s more, we want our child to be unique, just like us!! To back the pretending parents, the schools, with assembly lines (pun intended), promises to churn out exceptional and exclusively chiselled, only one of its kind, child!!

So, how do adults/schools go about this project of raising/schooling a “distinctive/innovative” child?

Common Entrance Exams for all the children, with not a single child left behind. Mission Accomplished.

The Missed Childhood

It is the sign of the dysfunctional and dystopian society wherein the success of the individual gets decided as early as the coding taught to a six-year-olds. What if STEM learning does not teach a child problem-solving skills? How will a child cope unless s/he is skilled and qualified to excel in the future entrance exams?

We are almost made to believe that if our children are not prepared for the entrance exams, we are doing a disservice to them. We are robbing them of their chance to have productive adulthood and setting them up for a failed future. Fair point.

I have not been able to raise a counterpoint that the child who is being groomed for entrance exams, throughout the childhood, can/might raise a minor query sometime in life that s/he was robbed of his/her growing up years. Won’t a childhood endowed with stress-free play and learning, along with, lead to a better chance of being a well-grounded adult? Isn’t this a fair point, as well?

What’s your view about the fait accompli of entrance exams on children’s formative years?