KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 16 — The Education Ministry (MoE) has provided tips and guidelines to help take the weight off Malaysian students who are being burdened with heavy schoolbags, with “too many books” identified as one of the culprits.
In a circular last month to the directors of all state education departments, the ministry gave a four-part guideline to the schools, teachers, parents and students on how to cut the weight in schoolbags.
The ministry said the issue was a long-standing problem, with its secretary-general and education director-general’s inspection of schools on August 17 revealing that students’ bags, especially in primary schools, were still heavy.
“This is because students bring daily studying essentials that do not match the school schedule,” the ministry’s education deputy director-general Aminudin Adam said in the circular dated September 12.
“Based on MoE’s study in 2017, this issue of heavy bags is caused by students bringing too many books including exercise books, private sector’s books, dictionary, comics, water bottle, food container, stationery that exceed the need including sports attire, or other special clothing that the school require of the students.
“Also based on the study, the total amount of MoE textbooks and activity books would only contribute to 28 per cent of that overall weight if brought according to the daily schedule,” the circular said.
The circular then listed a seven-point guide for the school management including to arrange the lessons schedule for classes for three to four subjects per day, to reduce students’ homework by using modular learning and 21st Century Learning Method (PAK-21), carrying out periodic weight inspections of schoolbags.
The circular also suggested that the school administrators discuss regularly with parents or the parent-teacher association to resolve the problem of heavy schoolbags as well as consider providing free drinking water facilities subject to schools’ agreement with the canteen and PTA.
The circular suggested a locker system if the schools can afford it to store unneeded books or items and which would allow students to only bring home books required for their homework.
“Can consider special desks with lockers with locks — as an innovation and alternative to normal lockers that are placed outside classrooms,” the letter said.
The five-point guideline for teachers proposed that they give clear instructions to students about the required items for the next schooling day, advise students to bring books and items according to the school schedule.
The teachers were also asked to plan for PAK-21, to have all activities and practices be done in school and continued on in the next lesson, and to encourage students to keep their books and items in lockers if available.
In the same circular, a six-point guideline was given for parents, with the suggestion that they prepare suitable schoolbags, encourage and guide their children to pack their schoolbags according to the school schedule and to cultivate doing so daily as a habit.
The ministry also suggested that parents prevent their children from bringing books with thick covers such as reference books, notebooks and comic books; guide their children to put down their bags while waiting for transport or during school assembly; clearing out their children’s bags weekly of unneeded books or items such as paper scraps.
These suggestions are aimed at “helping to overcome the problem of heavy bags for their children and to take care of the posture and spinal health of their children”, the ministry said.
A five-point guideline for children carried similar points as provided to the rest, but with the addition of discouraging the use of trolley bags due to its weight and the potential shoulder problems which may be caused.
The circular said schools are also to use their own discretion in reducing the weight of schoolbags in their respective schools.
“Schools have to prepare posters or brochures about the issue of weight of bags by including basic information such as the definition of heavy bags, which is 15 per cent of the students’ weight and proposed steps to reduce the weight,” the circular said.
The contents of the circular were also carried on the frontpage today by local daily Sin Chew Daily.