Heavy school bags soon to be history

KUCHING: Drooping shoulders and heavy school bags that almost turn school-going children into beasts of burden may soon be history.

In its bid to guard the health and physical development of school students, the Ministry of Education (MOE) is hoping to lighten school bags by equipping secondary school students with digital textbooks by 2022.

Its deputy minister Teo Nie Ching when replying to a question from Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin in Parliament on how MOE intends to deal with the problem of heavy school bags said: “In 2019, the ministry is proposing students from Form One to Form Three to use ebooks. A more interactive form will be prepared for Form One to Form Five by 2022.”

Teo added the innovation would also reduce the use of paper and allow students to gain knowledge beyond the classroom.

Apart from that, MoE has also provided tips and guidelines to help take the weight off Malaysian students who are being burdened with heavy schoolbags, with “too many books” being identified as one of the culprits.

In a circular to the directors of all state education departments in Sept this year, the ministry gave a four-part guideline to the schools, teachers, parents and students on how to cut the weight in

schoolbags.

The ministry said the issue was a long-standing problem, with its secretary-general and education director-general’s inspection of schools on Aug 17 this year revealing that students’ bags, especially in primary schools, were still heavy.

Some parents when asked by the New Sarawak Tribune on the issue said the books brought by their children for the day’s lessons were based on the class

timetable.

“Thick textbooks, additional workbooks, numerous exercise books, stationery, a water tumbler, lunch box plus the school bag itself contribute to the weight pupils have to carry to school daily.

“Bringing all the books seems to be the safest way to avoid being reprimanded by teachers,” said Isabell Magdeline Georgespill, a mother of two.

As a parent, she said she would prepare suitable schoolbags, encourage and guide her children to pack their schoolbags according to the school schedule and to cultivate the act as a habit.

“Sometimes, I will help my kids to carry their school bags to their classrooms to lessen their burden.

“Apart from that, I also agree with the locker system suggested by the ministry so that pupils who have extra activities outside of class can put their personal items or their packed food in the locker,” she added.

Meanwhile, Dolly Jenil whose son studies at a primary school in Kota Samarahan opined that the Higher Order Thinking Skills (KBAT) system should be reexamined as she considered it as the main factor.

“If this system is difficult and requires high order thinking from pupils, one subject which requires five to six books are still useless because it should be more practical, not burdening or stressing the young minds because not all children have the same level of IQ.

“The system should be more student-centred, practical and can be easily adapted to by all children,” she stressed.

According to her, one effective way to lighten the heavy load is to print textbooks that can be separated into various

parts so that pupils only bring the parts that are required for the

lessons.

“Textbooks could be divided into three terms or chapters, and the ones required for the day can be placed in a ring file and instead of using exercise books, pupils should use test pads that can be compiled into ring files as well. Pupils can then carry just two ring files, one for the lessons and the other for the exercises,” suggested the 33-year-old mother.

Above all, nothing is more important than the health and wellbeing of the pupils. If the issue of heavy school bags is not resolved we might see a generation of hunchbacks.