Chennai Kids

The problem of heavy bags to school

Today, there was an article in the Times of India, about the difficulty and health-hazards of growing kids carrying heavy bags to the school.

What a heavier bag does - Scales not in their favour - Times of India, Chennai
What a heavier bag does – Scales not in their favour – Times of India, Chennai

The problem of heavy school bags being carried by our kids seems to be there forever. I never understood the purpose of carrying textbooks to the school, when I studied in school over two decades ago I never did. In the school, as a parent, I expect the teachers to lecture and the students to write them down in their notebooks – I see (correct me, if I am being naive on this) there is little reason to study from the textbooks in the class.

Hope is not to be lost as well. Now, there are a few schools even in Chennai, India (like the one my son is going now and he is now in class XI) who have moved away from physical textbooks. Instead, they have instructed the students to download from CBSE/NCERT website all the required textbooks as ebooks (PDF) for free.

If the kid wishes and/or a teacher instructs for a specific assignment, students can bring an e-book reader/iPad/Laptop to the school to read from the textbooks. Students will take down the lecture notes in ruled sheets of paper (given by the school) and then file them in folders. My son loves this arrangement and so do I.

When I posted the above on my Facebook timeline, I heard two complaints:

  1. The first was it is not good for mental/physical health to expose kids to more screen times. My response was: when I first heard of this model of having e-textbooks, I too didn’t feel good, but considering the alternatives and the convenience I am coming around.
  2. The second was the affordability or the additional cost to buy an electronic display. The cost of a low-cost tablet or an entry-level Amazon Kindle e-ink reader is less than Rs.10,000 (US$150) and this money will get saved from the cost of buying paper textbooks that are sold with high markup by the schools. And compared with the fees charged by private CBSE schools, the cost of the electronic device is only a faction. I am not sure how this model will work for Government School students, especially those coming from poorer families – maybe, the schemes like Government of Tamil Nadu’s free Laptops will help.

1 Comment

  1. Avinash Mudaliar Reply

    A friend of mine, Mr Avinash Mudaliar had replied the following to my Facebook post.
    //Reminds me of R K Narayan’s maiden speech in the Rajya Sabha.. nothing seems to have changed since then. Any electronic tab/pad like device (not ipad/galaxy /kindle types) with basic visual capabilities and 12 GB is enough to cover their entire syllabus. In his maiden speech in the Rajya Sabha in 1989, Narayan had urged the government to abolish schoolbags.

    “More children on account of this daily burden develop a stoop and hang their arms forward like a chimpanzee while walking…. It is a cruel harsh life imposed on her and I present her case before this House and the Honourable members to think over and devise a remedy by changing the whole educational system and outlook so that childhood has a chance to bloom,” the author had said.

    Narayan had said an average child carried bags strapped to his back like a “pack-mule”. “The hardship starts right at home when straight from bed the child is pulled out and got ready for school even before his faculties are awake. He or she is groomed and stuffed into a uniform and packed off with a loaded bag on her back,” Narayan had said.//

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