PETALING JAYA: The subject of heavy school bags gets serious attention from the Education Ministry which has issued guidelines to help pupils lighten their load.
The guidelines, contained in a circular dated Sept 12, outline measures and suggestions for schools, teachers, parents and students to reduce the weight of school bags.
They include rearranging the timetable so that there are between three and four subjects a day and setting up lockers in schools where pupils can keep their books.
Teachers should give clear instructions on what books pupils need to bring each day and reduce the number of exercise books for each subject.
The circular was issued following a study by the ministry which found pupils bringing too many books to school, adding to the weight of their bags.
The study found that in some cases the required textbooks and workbooks only made up 28% of the bags’ weight.
The rest of the weight is due to exercise books, dictionary, comics, water bottles, food, sports attire and other items.
The circular signed by Education deputy director-general (Educational Operation Sector) Aminudin Adam said teachers must advise their students to only bring textbooks, activity books and other items as required according to the timetable.
Parents should help their children pack their bags, organise their books and inspect the contents of the bags at least once a week to identify any unnecessary items.
They should also encourage their children not to carry their bags while waiting for their transport.
The Pupils are also discouraged from using trolley bags as they can be too heavy for some pupils.
The guidelines urge schools to put up posters or brochures with tips on how to lighten school bags.
Bags should be no heavier than 15% of the children’s body weight, while schools should discuss with parent-teacher associations to identify what more could be done, the circular stated.
The Star has highlighted the problem of heavy school bags several times over the years following parents’ complaints.
In 2000, the Education Ministry released a circular on the usage of workbooks in primary schools, ordering a reduction in pupils’ exercise books.
Four years later, the ministry instructed schools to discontinue workbooks for Years One and Two.
Year Three and older pupils are limited to one additional workbook each for Bahasa Melayu, English, Mandarin, Mathematics and Science.
Despite repeated reminders by the ministry, the problem has persisted.