Dubai, UAE: Hussein Al Hammadi, the UAE Minister of Education, has quickly and publicly responded to a distress call from a UAE resident, after the latter shared an online video complaining about the heavy weight of his daughter’s school backpack.
In his post, the student’s father uploaded a video on social media, showing his daughter standing alongside her large backpack.
The father (speaking in Arabic), talks about the large number of books his young daughter has to carry to school each day and her inability to bear the weight.
Speaking to Khaleej Times on Tuesday, Dr Hamad Al Yahyaei, Assistant Undersecretary for the Curriculum and Assessment Sector at MoE, said: “We would like to assure parents that their children’s well-being is a priority at the Ministry and we are always considerate of the feedback we receive from them.”
He said the Ministry is keen on “implementing effective solutions” that benefit students and enhance their educational journey, which is why it has provided electronic versions of curriculum books for students in all cycles on the Diwan website.
“The platform allows students to access or download their books remotely from anywhere, on their personal devices. This digital transformation and accessibility to interactive, engaging and exciting educational content is critical in helping us build knowledgeable, competent, creative and skillful individuals in the UAE.”
. شاهد.. ماذا رد وزير التربية على مقطع لولي أمر يشكو ثقل الحقيبة المدرسية أكد حسين الحمادي، وزير التربية والتعليم لصحيفة الخليج، أن الكتب متوفرة إلكترونياً في ديوان الوزارة، ويمكن أن يقوم الطالب بتحميلها على الأجهزة الإلكترونية. وأضاف الحمادي: كذلك الطالب في الحلقة الأولى، يفترض أن تكون كتبه في المدرسة، وعلى الطالب أن يأخذ كتبه حسب الجدول. جاء رد الحمادي عقب تداول مغردي مواقع التواصل الاجتماع فيديو لأحد أولياء الأمور يشكو لوزير التربية من عدد الكتب الكبيرة التي تحملها طفلته، وعدم قدرة ابنته على حمل الحقيبة. #وزير_التربية#طلاب#مدارس
Following the video’s circulation, Al Hammadi also responded affirming that electronic schoolbooks would help eliminate the need for extra physical books. Additionally, he added that students should carry books according to their schedule for the day, rather than bringing all in at once.
The issue of heavy school backpacks has been a point of contention for parents in the UAE. But schools here are making steps to reduce the weight burden on students.
From next week, Indian High School (IHS) will be implementing a regular ‘no bag’ day for students. “Starting next Thursday, we will launch the ‘no bag day’ and it will happen every week,” Ashok Kumar, CEO of HIS, told Khaleej Times.
The school’s latest move is being carried out alongside its efforts towards digitalisation, which helps reduce bag weight as well as encourages parents to check timetables and pack only the books that the students need for that day.
Over at Dubai British School, principal Brendon Fulton said whilst the school has embraced a “gradual move towards e-books and online learning opportunities”, it continues to recognise the importance of traditional textbooks.
“Moving to e-books is not the sole solution. Schools need to consider how and when students need access to the still necessary traditional learning materials. By doing so, they can ensure that bags are not overly burdened during lesson transition times and to and from school.”
Some of the ways in which Dubai British School has helped students lighten the load varies across age groups.
For secondary school students, lockers are located throughout the school ensuring they only need to carry their books for current lessons. And for primary school students, dedicated homerooms allow students to leave their bags and books there throughout the day.
Like many schools in Dubai, it also boasts a BYOD policy (bring your own device). “This means that sets of textbooks can often remain in the classrooms for use, whilst students have anytime access to the online versions,” Fulton said.
This move towards digitally focused learning has become part and parcel of the education system here and is helping remove the burden of heavy backpacks from students.
For students carrying heavy bags to school, it can affect the muscles, bone growth and overall development of a child, and Dr Abdul Majeed, specialist paediatrician at Aster Hospital, Mankhool said this can result in short and long-term issues. But the fact the Ministry and schools are taking steps to offload this burden is a positive move.
While the issue is still being ironed out, Dr Majeed said bag weights should not exceed more than “10-15 per cent of the child’s body weight”.
“Looking short-term, heavy bags can cause neck, shoulder and back pain, unknowingly, due to muscle strain. Carrying a bag back and forth everyday puts a lot of strain on muscles and that can lead to fatigue. Subsequently, that can impact student performance in school,” he told Khaleej Times.
From a long-term perspective, carrying a heavy backpack all the way from kindergarten to 10th standard can affect posture, distort the spine and cause persistent back pain.
“Children need to be trained how to carry these bags correctly until the weight issue is dealt with. They should never carry on one shoulder, the load should be spread across both.”
The government, as well as schools, are taking positive steps to make this less of an issue, with the introduction of e-books and devices is reducing the load. However, Dr Majeed said the introduction of these devices have pros and cons.
“For primary school students they should be taught how to use the device correctly and they need to be monitored. Excessive use can lead to other health issues like eye strain.”
To reduce the current weight burden, he recommended students use bags, which are designed to distribute weight evenly, and to make use of the facilities in school by leaving books on campus instead of taking them home.
Sonia Prem – “I have seen big changes in the weight of their backpacks over the years. They still bring books to school, but they have locker systems where they can offload what they don’t need. For some children, it is a very personalised issue because they have this fear they will not bring the right book to class, so they bring everything. That’s when bags become heavy, but that’s for the few rather than the majority.”
Abdul Sharef – “This is a serious issue in schools and needs immediate attention. My son in Grade 4 has to carry approx 7-8kg of books nearly everyday. On top of that, his class is on the 1st floor. He practically has to drag this huge load every day up and down the stairs. I think only the books for homework should be sent back with the kids and the rest can be kept safely in class.”
Priyanka S. – “My daughter is in primary at the moment and my experience so far has been great. All she carries in her school bag is a communication booklet, a reading book and a tablet; all of which put together hardly puts any pressure on her shoulders or back. Gone are the days of bulky backpacks and I only hope this trend continues up to secondary school.”
© Khaleej TimesApr 2018