KUALA LUMPUR, March 21 — As schools open up classrooms to Year One primary students today, all eyes in Parliament were on the content of the average schoolbag weighing down the nation’s children.

According to Deputy Education Minister Datuk Mah Hang Soon, the heaviness is not caused by books per se but other items such as food from home, stationery, and a change of clothes for Muslim students who attend religious lessons after their regular classes.

“I want to inform here today that textbooks and workbooks only make up 28 per cent of the overall weight of the school bag.

“The remaining weight is made from food and water, stationery and for some who attend Kafa class in the evening; they pack a set of uniforms to change” he told the Dewan Rakyat during Question Time.

Mah was replying to Kulai MP Teo Nie Ching, who had asked the government if there was a specific timeframe for lockers to be installed in schools to help reduce the heavy school bags carried by students.

Teo also asked if the ministry has plans to cut the number of subjects taught in schools as another measure to lighten the schoolbag.

Mah said that primary schools will be the first to get the student lockers but did not give an exact timeline.

He previously said the lockers would be installed immediately but in phases, adding that RM37.3 million has been set aside for the first phase, which will benefit primary pupils from Years One to Three.

The second phase will benefit primary schoolers from Years Four to Six, estimated to take place next year.

He said that students who attend single session schools can keep their textbooks and workbooks in their desks.

Mah said that several measures have been identified to lighten the schoolbag. One of them is for students to use only activity books and workbooks provided by the Education Ministry.

He added that workbooks can only be used as reference material or review outside of school time.

“We have only set the number of exercise books for a subject not to exceed two books at a time and the thickness of each exercise book should not exceed 80 pages,” he said.

But he also acknowledged that the ministry has yet to fully resolve the weight of school bags.

Heavy schoolbags are an annual complaint, especially at the start of the academic year. The Education Ministry recognised this in 2018.