Are you ready to swap your child’s schoolbag with the tablet?

This is one of many recommendations tabled by committee to revisit schoolbag norms; minister mulls the use of gadgets

Weighty schoolbags are destined to be relegated to history soon, with the state education department warming up to the recommendations made by the special committee set up to table the guidelines. Following a Bombay High Court (HC) directive in December 2014, a committee comprising representatives from various school managements, principals, parents, educationists and child psychologists, under the chairmanship of primary education director Mahavir Mane, was formed to tabulate an agenda to lighten schoolkids’ burden. The committee recently submitted the recommendations to state school education minister Vinod Tawde.

The salient features are: splitting textbooks into two in alignment with the school midterm, rejigging the timetable in such a manner that too many theory- based subjects are not included in a day, and finally, encouraging the use of tablets to significantly reduce paper-load. While the minister has green-flagged the first two proposals, the last one leaves room for debate.

cov011Said Tawde, “We have to embark on a comparative study to arrive at the proposal’s feasibility. Splitting textbooks and rearranging the timetable appear perfectly feasible (beginning the next academic year, as books for this year have already been printed). Similarly, re-arranging timetables can be worked out with experienced minds put to work. However, the inclusion of an electronic gadget like the tablet at schools needs to be reviewed thoroughly, as there are socio-economic ramifications.” The minister underlined that issues of finances and the implications of letting children use an electronic gadget unsupervised are a cause for debate.

Taking forward a similar line of thought, while parents and teachers welcomed the first two recommendations, the last was met with mixed reactions. Leena Chaudhari, principal of Symbiosis school, said, “Many schools are already re-arranging their timetables to lessen the burden of books in the schoolbag. We have executed this in our school by preparing a good mix of theory-based subjects and practical sessions.” Chaudhari also said that the school has reduced the size of notebooks from 200 to 100 pages, with the younger lot being encouraged to keep their note books in class. “But introducing tablets may be a forward thinking initiative, but it can have adverse implications on a child’s handwriting and eyesight,” she added. But rather than dismiss the idea, Chaudhari felt that it should be put on a trial run. “In many private schools, the practice is already in place,” she said.

Harishchandra Gaikwad, head of the principals’ association from Pune, said, “Splitting textbooks is a welcome move, as after the first term comes to a close, the first half of the textbook becomes redundant, with the exception of Class X. Children can reference lessons at home, if the need arises. But when it comes to using the electronic gadget, special care must be accorded to kids coming from impoverished economic backgrounds.” Gaikwad called attention to unwanted content being accessible to kids without supervision. “Effort must be made to block such content for the machines before handing them over to kids,” he said.

Parents, however, have not welcomed the use of tablets in schools. Anil Mahajan, parent of a Class VII boy, said, “Kids today are definitely smarter and tech-savvy but a complete dependence on a tablet is not advisable. It can be used for few tasks, such as transferring work-sheets etc. But it should be done under strict surveillance.”

Renuka Shinde, another parent who has children in classes III and VI, said, “While I am against making our children dependent on it for school studies, once the government takes such a decision, schools will take no time to make it mandatory, adding to the financial burden on parents. If it is implemented, a proper policy should also be designed to bring it in use.”

►►► The inclusion of an electronic gadget like the tablet in schools needs to be reviewed thoroughly as there are socio-economic ramifications

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