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Monday, July 02, 2018

6 Easy Ways To Reduce The Weight Of School Bags

Special Message to the Ministry of Education

We are a group of  over 27 500 parents on Facebook who are very concerned and involved in our children's education.  When conducting surveys and seeking ideas, we urge you to make use of us. We thank you in advance for listening to our voices.

Parent Tested Ways For  Reducing Bag Loads

Have you ever carried a bag of 5 kg rice? It feels heavy doesn't it? Unfortunately, some of our kids have to carry a load heavier than this to schools EVERY day. Some separate the load into 2 or 3 bags and on days when they have to pass up a project or artwork, they may look like they are going for a trip with all  hands full while pulling a bag that looks very much like a travel bag along.
To manage the weight, parents buy expensive ergonomic bags and trolley bags for their children. If you stand at the foot of the school stairways at the beginning or end of a school day, you can hear the kids bumping up and down the stairs. Bang! Bang! Bang! they go. They are told to carry, not drag but its too heavy for them to carry their loads all the way up the stairs. This is because they have to do a balancing act as their hands are full with the other hand  holding on to a hand carry bag or recycling bag and sometimes an art block or project. With only one hand to carry, you can't blame them for dragging their bags.

The topic of the weight of bags has been discussed for years on our Facebook group. Our next favourite topic is 
  • "What bag shall I buy? Trolley bag or backpack" followed by 
  • "Where can I find a shop to repair my damaged bag or trolley?" 
Yes, unfortunately damaged bags, straps, trolleys and wheels is a frequently discussed topic in our group.

Parents wonder why this problem has been going on for years. Is it very difficult to resolve? No. It is not difficult at all. All you need to do is ask the parents! We have over 27, 600 members who can give plenty of ideas to easily resolve this issue. Let's look at some of them. We'll just break it into ...

6 Easy Ways To Reduce The Weight Of School Bags 

1. Adjust the time table to reduce the number of subjects per day

The ministry announced a reduction of subjects to just 3 or 4 a day. It is a no brainer and we wonder why this was not implemented years ago. Anyway, we hope that with good implementation and monitoring, the load can be reduced going forth. 

A couple of years ago, one parent weighed 7 textbooks before and after she split the textbooks. The weight of 7 textbooks was 2.46 kg. After she split the books to only the relevant chapters for her child to bring to school, the weight of the 7 "textbooks" was 482 g. Similarly a reduction in number of subjects per day will have an immediate impact like this. 

One parent lamented: "For all the 5 main subjects for std 5 for example, each one is around 200+ pages! Why don't MOE split the text books into Jilid 1, 2 or 3 like the case for lower primary? I really don't understand.". Perhaps something can be done about that in the longer term.

This can be done at school level under the instruction of the MOE.

2. Reduce the number of exercise books

We are surprised that this easy solution was not even mentioned at all. The survey by the MOE lumped exercise books together with private workbooks. This should  not have been done so because exercise books is another separate problem all together. They add to the weight of the school bags just as much as private workbooks do. 

Did you know that children may carry up to 5 or more exercise books for a single subject? Take BM for example, they may have BM1, BM2, Tatabahasa, Ejaan, Karangan, Bina Ayat etc. That's only one subject mind you. It is the same for other language subjects. So multiply that by the number of subjects taken and do the math. Speaking of Math, sometimes there is Math 1, Math 2 and Math 3 exercise books and so on.

Many children resort to carrying an additional hand carry bag specifically for exercise books and folders. (In upper primary, some have to carry folders for karangan and past year papers practice).

A simple solution? Reduce the number of exercise books per subject to just two. We understand that the teacher may be marking one while the student is doing homework on the other. There is no need for so many categories. Have a look at the exercise books vs text book ratio as this frustrated parent did.

This measure can be introduced at school level.

3. Introduce Modular Text books

Some worried parents resorted to buying extra textbooks, tearing them up and gluing, taping or putting only relevant chapters in folders to reduce the weight. This did reduce the load but how many people can afford to buy extra only to deface the book by tearing? A solution would be to introduce modular textbooks where children can bring only relevant chapters as done by some of these parents. (Not all schools allowed this modification of textbooks by the innovative parents)

These "books" have been "modified" or given a "textbook surgery" as one parent put it. Even with 5 subjects for the day, the books weigh a lot less.

Currently we do have Jilid 1 and Jilid 2 for some books especially in lower primary. We have 2 semesters separated by a mid term break. Each of the semesters have a shorter mid semester break in between. Effectively, this means 4 separate terms. 4 Jilids may be a good starting point if a chapter per module is not practical.

This measure needs to be introduced at MOE level.

4. Remove Unnecessary Textbooks

Why do we even need a textbook and exams (?!) for Pendidikan Jasmani dan Kesihatan? Nutrition and health can be covered in Science. Primary school kids learn about stretching exercises and how to do jumping jacks etc while secondary school kids learn the rules of certain games like badminton or football in topics covered in these textbooks.

This is physical education. Just get the kids out in the field for some real physical activity and let them learn while playing. There is no need for books (hand out leaflets if necessary) and certainly not exams! for subjects like physical education and art.

A good relook and revamp of the syllabus to reduce overlapping subjects may be necessary but we won't go into that in this post.

This measure needs to be introduced at MOE level.

5. Reduce private workbooks and other books like resource books or dictionaries

The reduction of private workbooks has been introduced since last year with some positive results. (We hope that the ministry will continue to monitor this). Why not extend this to other books like "Buku Sumber" and dictionaries (Yes, very thick and heavy dictionaries for several languages). In upper primary some language teachers require the kids to bring English, Chinese or BM dictionaries to school during lessons. Though it is a good thing to teach kids to learn how to use dictionaries, perhaps the school could provide some dictionaries for students to share among themselves in class. This would encourage teamwork and sharing too.

See that dictionary in there? It adds a lot of weight to an already heavy bag.

This measure can be introduced at school level  or under the direction of MOE

6.  Provide simple bookshelves or boxes for storage

It may not be practical or financially viable to install lockers in every school throughout the country but there are other forms or simple and cheaper alternatives. Lockers do not have to be expensive steel ones with keys like the ones you see in American movies.

Storage can be in the form of cheaper plastic boxes or wooden cupboards. In this classroom, tired parents took up to installing the "lockers" themselves. It took one parent to donate some used office furniture and several parents to put it up in one day. These cupboards/shelves do not have keys but they are numbered accordingly for the children to store books, stationery and heavy boxes of crayons etc.

This measure can be introduced at school level or under the direction of the MOE.

Simple? There are many more suggestions but we have shared only the most simple which can be implemented easily, without too much difficulty by schools and teachers with immediate results.

Dear parents, if you care about your child's back, please share this post so that these methods may be considered.

We hope to say goodbye to heavy school bags like the ones shown below.

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