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The physical burden of learning

The physical burden of learning


When we think of a school-going child, there are some distinctive visuals that come to the mind –faces glistening in the early morning sunshine, multi-hued school uniforms and school bags. These images can easily invoke pleasant feelings in most adults either through nostalgia or at the thought of their own children. However, closer inspection reveals the dose of reality that has been there for decades – the monster size of the school bag that the slender shoulders carry.

While we often dismiss this ‘weighty’ issue (pardon the pun), as a part and parcel of the growing years, the gravity of the situation has manifested to a worrisome reality – severe back pain, shoulder injuries (and in some cases spinal deformity) in children due to heavy school bags. The increasing volumes of curriculum books (mandated by schools) form only part of the burden that children carry. The cut-throat competition to perform in exams has resulted in increasing prominence of additional reference books (no less voluminous) targeting specific types of exams. While the additional cost of buying multiple books on the same subject may be a concern by itself, quite often, the demands on time are such that children go to their tuitions directly from school and are forced to carry the baggage for the entire day. This routine is taking a heavy toll on children’s health.

No doubt the extent of damage due to this taxing routine has surprised many, and of late, there has been a rise in the voices of concern. However, thankfully, the solution to this problem is fairly straightforward – at least conceptually. It doesn’t stretch our reasoning to question the need for the voluminous books in the current era of digital education and eLearning. In fact, digital classrooms are eliminating the need to travel and be physically present in the classroom for students deprived of good schools in their vicinity. If some school administrations can adopt ERP solutions to eliminate their paperwork, why can’t the mainstream education system adopt eEducation solutions to eliminate the need to carry hard copies of books?

These eEducation solutions are in no way meant to eliminate the need for paper-based books, but they can certainly reduce the physical load that students are forced to carry to school. A planned approach to curriculum design (and lecture scheduling) must be adopted to modularise the course content into smaller booklets so that students need to carry only the relevant study material for a given day. Some schools have adopted a weekly ‘no bag day’ and are counselling parents to ensure their ward is not overburdened. Arguably, there is no dearth of measures that can be employed to relieve the young shoulders of some weight, but the implementation can happen only once the problem is acknowledged by the relevant stakeholders –school authorities as well as government bodies. They need to take a sympathetic view of the issue and come up with policies that bring the required upgrades to curriculum design. They also need to put in regulations that would limit the physical load that a child is required to carry to school.

School education is an important contributor to the development of children as they grow up to become productive and responsible citizens. Let’s ensure that their shoulders don’t droop before they are ready to take this responsibility.


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