What is the matter with school bag load? What are the solutions?

If we take a look at a group of children who goes to primary school, we might notice the size of the bag is quite big compared to the size of the child. The first thing we concern of is on the load that is being carried by them. The concern is nothing new, in fact it has been a topic of research since more than a decade ago. I had experienced the same thing as well.

In 2010, a research stated that the average weight of school bag of national primary school student in Kuala Lumpur was 4.55 4.55±1.62kg, that is 11.7% of the average body weight of students. As for chinese and tamil type school, they were at 22.0% and 16.6% respectively. So what do those percentages mean? Keep on reading.
Is there any guideline on the limit of school bag weight? There are guidelines, but each of them varies ranging from as low as 5% to as high as 20% of student's weight. American Occupational Therapy Association recommended a 15% limit while American Academy of Pediatrics recommended a limit of between 10% to 20%. In Singapore, it has been established that the weight limit should be from 10% to 15%. For primary school student in Malaysia, due to the younger age and smaller size of the student, it is best for us to limit the weight to 10% of student's weight as being suggested by the National Back Pain Association in 1997. Based on these facts, we could see that on average, students from those three types of school (National, Chinese and Tamil Type) carried load more than the suggested 10% of their weight (e.g. if the student's weight is 30kg, the weight limit is suggested to be 3kg). Is there any consequences?

The consequence from the problem has been discussed for a long time. In 2015, an article by Utusan stated that according to Dr. Nurul Azwa Mohammad Noor, a specialist in Orthopedic and Spine, the load from the school bag could cause the spine to bend. It also stated that a research that was published in Malaysian Journal of Medicine and Health Science Vol. 1 around 2005 revealed that load from school bag could cause back pain. 

To avoid the consequence towards school children, the best course of action is to reduce the load that is being carried by the students to school. The first step in finding the solution is to know of items being put inside of a school bag. From a tweet by Dr Maszlee Malik, the Education Minister of Malaysia on 28th of June 2018, research finding shows that text book and activity book from Ministry of Education that is in accordance with students' time table account for only 28% of the total weight of a school bag.

Note that as we talk about reducing the load, it doesn't necessarily mean that it only involves reducing the weight, it also involves reducing the physical stress on the student. Here I would like to share few out of many solution that we could try.

Go Through Child's Time Table and School Bag

Spend some time everyday looking through child's time table and school bag to make sure our child will carry only what is necessary.

Buy an Appropriate Bag

It is best to opt for a bag with two straps instead of one. Make sure both straps are used, not only that it would reduce the load on the shoulder, but it would also avoid unbalanced load on the child. Make sure that the beg itself isn't heavy. I am aware of a school bag that has wheels but it is heavy. The necessity of such bag depends on its usage. If the student needs to carry his or her bag more often than pulling it, we should reconsider about buying it. Another important thing is to make sure the straps are being tightened correctly, the bag shouldn't be too low on the back, it should be closer to the shoulder to reduce the load on child's back. If the beg provide a waist strap, use it, it is going to transfer much of the load and stress from the back to the hip.

Arrange Items Based on Weight

The heavier item should be closer to the back of the carrier, and the lighter one should be further. It is going to reduce the load on the back.

Reduce the Number of Subjects

Reducing the number of daily subjects is going to directly reduce the number of books needed for school.

E-Book Usage

Some people recommend leaving books which are not required for homework at school. This recommendation is going to reduce the load on student, however it is better if the student doesn't have to carry any book home. There are 2 ways of approaching this, firstly by having the same copies of textbook at home. Another way is by utilising the technology through e-book at home. I am not sure if we could get all textbooks in e-book form. This solution requires a school to provide a space for students to keep their books.

We could think of many other ways. Remember, there is no perfect solution to a problem but it shouldn't stop us from trying. Please share in the comment section below if you think there is another solution to the problem.

  • http://www.utusan.com.my/gaya-hidup/kesihatan/beg-berat-undang-bahaya-1.71203
  • https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apergo.2004.10.004
  • https://doi.org/10.1111/josh.12040
  • https://doi.org/10.1051/matecconf/20178702013
  • http://t.upm.edu.my/dokumen/FKUSK1_MJMHS_2010V06N2_OP09.pdf

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