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.
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 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.
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.