The Telangana government recently came out with a notification, putting a cap on the weight of school bags that school children carry. Even those who are just starting school have a heavy load to bear on their delicate shoulders, both literary and symbolically.
Just the textbooks of 7th class weigh just below 5kg. With notebooks, workbooks, home work, class work, one can imagine how heavy the bags are. At times, the tiny tots have fallen over because their school bag is heavy.
The matter really begs the question: Who is really responsible for the state affairs. Those who have designed the syllabus, schools who decide which books and how many books the children should have or the publishers who charge per page and hence, more the number of pages the higher of the cost of the textbook.
The State Boards usually have a fixed book that schools affiliated to them have to prescribe. This is so for all subjects. Same is the case with schools that are affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE).
The Indian School Certification Examinations Council (ICSE) does not have any fixed textbooks. They design the syllabus and leave it to the schools affiliated to them to choose the publishers. They have been given that freedom to go for textbooks that they find suitable for the style of teaching they follow.
Publishing textbooks is a very competitive business. Each publisher wishes to provide something different, something additional to make their product more useful and relevant. In the process, the textbooks end up being fat and heavy. Often, they also include additional information in the book which is not part of the syllabus. Although, this is done with the best of intentions, it ends up adding extra pages and extra weight of the textbook.
This issue needs to be addressed collectively as no party is consciously responsible for it. Each of them, the syllabus designers, schools, publishers, parents, students have somehow contributed to this issue. It can be sorted out together. The government has taken a welcome step and now it is up to the education fraternity to follow it through and make shoulders of the students burden-free.