Heavy school bags

Dear Editor,

 Students have been yelling their complaint on heavy school bags for years. Yet, not many constructive responses have been made by society so far. According to a recent news report, the average weight of an S.3 student’s school bag is now 5 kg, while the burden of a primary six student is no less lighter if calculated in the school bag weight-to-body weight ratio. Heavy school bags create unbearable pressure to the spines of growing teens. Instead of telling students not to bring unnecessary items to school, I believe that there are far more measures schools and textbook publishers can take to alleviate the worrying situation.

 Textbooks constitute a major proportion of weight in a school bag. There have been voices from parents that textbook publishers are the ones to blame. In average, the number of pages in a secondary school textbook is 200. Despite the fact that students have to bring 200 pages to school (for one subject only), generally teachers only go over about 20 pages per month. By easy calculation one can conclude that bringing such a think textbook is both pitiful and absurd. Actually, there is one practical and beneficial solution. Textbook publishers should separate the textbooks into different booklets, each covering a discrete topic. Since teachers usually lecture in a topic-based approach, students will only need to bring a thin booklet to school under the new arrangement. Not only do students benefit from a lighter load, but the publishers will gain as well. The use of loose-leaf binding in textbooks will need more pieces of paper in total, because cash booklet will have its own cover and functional pages such as content and index pages. The extra cost should not be significant as it will be averaged out by mass production, but the publishers can lift the price a bit as long as customers are willing to buy a textbook using a better binding method. The publishers will have nothing to lose but profit to gain, so why should they delay the ‘textbook reform’?

 Apart from textbook publishers, schools should be more lenient towards students. They should not punish students for leaving bulky textbooks inside their drawers. Although schools are concerned about pupils not studying if they leave textbooks at school, there can be other methods than banning it to solve the problems. For instance, teachers can distribute concise notes for students to study. Also, schools can extend the opening hours so that students can finish their revision at school and need not take a huge pile of heavy textbooks home.

 Sometimes the school may require students to bring non-textbook items, like painting sets, readers and so on, to school. I recommend that schools should provide each student with a locker whenever possible. If the space of the school is too limited to place lockers, installing a drawer with lock to each student desk is also a favourable alternative. In this way, the weight of school bags can be further lessened.

 Last but not least, students should bear some responsibility for their huge daily burden. I heard that some students are far too lazy to tidy up their school bags everyday. They put everything, no matter necessary or not, into their school bags but they never take anything out. As a result, the weight of the bag continuously increases. Primary kids should not be blamed for this since they might not know what to put in a school bag and need assistance from their parents. However, as secondary students, teenagers should be able to manage their school bags well. There is no excuse for them not to organize the items they have to bring to school. They will certainly find their school bags much lighter if they organize them wisely.

 As stated above, the problem of overweight school bags can be easily dealt with if textbook publishers, teachers and students are willing to take a step forward. A small step of progress might already result in a large reduction in school bag weights. I hope that next year I will hear from the news that the school bags have become fitter than before.

Yours faithfully,
Chris Wong
Chris Wong