Muscat: To reduce the weight of the school bag, the Ministry of Education plans to reduce the number of books that pupils (1-4 grades) can carry for daily studies. This will be a big relief for small children who often carry on an average 8-12 kg bags putting pressure on their spinal cord and risking overall body growth. The plan is to restrict homework on weekends and limit the number of notebooks to two by clubbing together subjects; one for Arabic, Islamic studies and social studies, and second for science and maths. This will reduce the weight of school bags below 10 per cent of the body weight of the child, which the international standard accepts globally.
The ministry's move follows a long standing demand by parents, students and teachers to cut the size of school bags. In a study conducted across educational governorates by MoE, it was found that a bag of a primary student with all text books, water bottle and lunch box weighed 4-5kg which is more than 15 per cent of the body weight of students. The students in 1-4 grade have an average weight of 24-30 kg.
In an online statement, MoE listed several measures to ensure the well-being of students. It asked parents/ guardians to avoid buying wheeled trolley school bags as it will prompt some students to pack more books . The ministry has mooted setting up lockers in schools to keep supplies and books
Parents and teachers have welcomed the MOE plan. Ammar bin Youssef Al Hadi said: The decision to reduce the weight takes into account the health of the children. Every year, my young children suffer from shoulder and back pain after carrying the school bag with a large number of textbooks and notebooks. It is good to set up lockers in school premises that allow students to keep books that are used daily.
Shaima bint Zayed Al Mawliya said wheeled bags reduce the burden on her children who often feel exhausted after school hours from carrying heavy bags and it is better to reduce the number of books. She suggested e-books to reduce the size of school bag,
Tahira Bint Ali welcomed MoE regulations to reduce the school bag. "My children in the first cycle suffer a lot from carrying a bag full of textbooks and notebooks, which causes them insomnia and fatigue. I wish they had digital books as it will eliminate the need to carry physical books and lighten the weight of the bag.
Sarah bint Saif al Lamkiya, an English language teacher, said these measures will reduce the risk of chronic injuries and reduce the workload of both students and teachers.