After the landmark judgement of the Madras High Court, the Central government has asked the states and Union Territories (UTs) to ensure that there is no homework for students of Classes 1 and 2 and to ensure that the guidelines capping the weight of school bags for classes 1-10 are adhered to. The Union Human Resource Development Ministry has instructed all states and UTs to formulate guidelines to regulate the teaching of subjects and weight of school bags in accordance with Government of India regulations, read the circular sent out by the Education Secretary of Lakshadweep A. Hamza to school principals.
The instruction also stated that Schools would not ask the students to bring any additional books or materials that could increase their burden of weight, a HRD ministry official said. All the states and UT education departments have been directed on these lines.
The guidelines said school bags for students in Class 1 and 2 should not be above 1.5 kg. The weight limits stipulated for Classes 3 to 5 (two to three kg), Classes 4 and 5 (four kg), Classes 8 and 9 (4.5 kg), and Class 10 (five kg). It also directed that Classes 1 and 2 students should be taught only one language and Maths and Classes 3 and 4 only Language, Environmental Studies, and Maths.
Earlier, the Madras High Court on May 30, 2018 directed the Centre to ensure that homework is banned for students of Classes 1 and 2 all over the country, regardless of the educational board of the school. The directive was issued with the help of recommendations from the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), the Judge also noted that children aren’t weightlifters, and asked for a policy that ensures children don’t carry very heavy bags to school.
Justice N Kirubakaran, who passed the order, added that no subjects apart from language and Mathematics should be forced on Class 1 and 2 children. Students of Classes 3 to 5 should only have EVS (Environmental Science) as the additional subject. He added that all schools throughout the country should comply with the subjects and homework directive, failing which the schools will be disaffiliated from the NCERT.
The directions will come into effect for the academic year 2018-2019.
This is also a problem in Meghalaya. It may be reminded that, earlier the Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development, Upendra Kushwaha had informed the Lok Sabha on November 21, 2016, during the winter session that CBSE has directed schools affiliated to it to ensure that students do not carry school bags till class 2 and also to restrict the number of books to be prescribed in classes I-VIII. This came as a relief to the parents who have been shouldering the load.
In a written reply to a question, Kushwaha also stated that both the NCERT and the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) have taken several measures to reduce curriculum load and the weight of school bags. In its latest circular dated September 12, 2016, it has advised schools to take all possible measures to keep the weight of school bag under control.
He also pointed out that NCERT has not recommended any textbook for early childhood education, while only two books for classes I and II and three books for classes III to V have been recommended. The Government has also launched a platform for showcasing and dissemination of all digital and digitizable resources for its stakeholders in collaboration with the NCERT, NCERT has made available all their textbooks and other teaching-learning material.
The situation is the same all over India while in Meghalaya, one needs to take a look at the size of the school bag for the toddles where every text book is accompanied by a workbook, and two exercise books, one for class work the other for homework which has all added to the load.
Besides the issues of school bag or no school bag and ‘no-detention policy’, primary education has always hit the headlines. In November 2014, after a long standoff between the playschools and the judiciary, the Delhi High Court told the playschools in the national capital which have been allotted land at concessional rates that they will have to admit 25 percent of students from the weaker sections of the society on a free basis.
The Directorate of Education (DoE) of the Delhi government has washed its hands off the responsibility of ensuring compliance by the schools.
The playschools and kindergarten level schools in Meghalaya too should be directed likewise, especially those which have received schemes from the state government. Most of the Missionary run educational institutions in the state have their own yardsticks in admitting the toddlers. Besides the unwarranted interview of both the students and parents, the applicant often needs to be from the same denomination to which the school is affiliated.
The government owned schools in the state capital are the worst, besides the economic status, the parents need to have vehicles to drop off the ward as it is perceived that only those who own vehicles can rush the kids to school in time. Such school authorities are oblivious to the fact that such attitude is one of the main causes of traffic congestion during school hours in the city.
A few years back, after a daylong traffic jam, concerned parents had demanded the authority to introduce the system of school buses in order to tackle long queues of cars during school hours. Press conferences too were called after a committee was constituted. However, this had its own natural death like any other public demand from various sections of the society. The reason is that most playschools, kindergarten schools and most formal education institutions in Meghalaya are largely accessible only to the affluent. The premier educational institutions are to the people from weaker economic backgrounds what the Promised Land was to Moses. Hence, the conditions like owning a vehicle, educated parents and status in the society are the qualifications required for the admission of the child into such institutions.
The Delhi High Court Order issued on November 24, 2014 should be extended to the state of Meghalaya. The High Court here should also order all the educational institutions, especially the government aided ones to reserve 25 percent seats for the poor children in the society; failing which their schemes and government support should be withdrawn immediately.
Along with the Court Order, the Prime Minister should also extend his Order to abolish interviews for lower posts in the Central government, which should also be extended to the education institutions for conducting interview of toddles and parents.
In the case of interview for toddlers too there is no psychologist who can judge the young minds, and the poor parents are denied the chance to send their wards to the schools of their choice. There are a lot of problems in India’s education sector and these are besides the issues of school bag and ‘no-detention policy’ which need to be cleared if the next generation are to gain the most from the education which they are presently getting.