The Madras High Court has asked the Centre to instruct state governments to reduce weight of satchels of school children and do away with homework for classes I and II. “Children are neither weightlifters nor school bags loaded containers,” HC said in its interim order on Tuesday.
Justice N Kirubakaran, while referring to the government orders (GOs) issued by governments of Telangana and Maharashtra, directed the Centre to direct the state governments and governments of Union Territories to formulate a “Children School Bag Policy” reducing the weight of the satchels in line with the guidelines issued by either state. The governments were asked to ensure that weight of the satchels shall not be more than 10 per cent of the weight of the child.
Besides, the court directed the Central Board of School Education (CBSE), the regional officer of CBSE and the Association of Management of Private Schools to prescribe and use (NCERT) books alone. Justice N Kirubakaran was passing an interim order on a petition from M Purushothaman, an advocate, seeking a direction to CBSE schools to purchase only books published by NCERT and to prescribe syllabus of NCERT.
The judge directed the Centre to instruct the state governments not to prescribe any other subjects except language and mathematics for classes I and II students and language, EVS and mathematics for classes III-V students as prescribed by NCERT. He directed the authorities to prohibit CBSE schools from prescribing any homework for classes I and II students.
The judge concurred with the submissions of the petitioner-advocate that the CBSE schools are prescribing homework to children of classes I and II and it was prohibited by NCERT. With regard to homework, it has been specifically stated in the counter affidavit filed by secretary, Department of School Education and Literacy of Human Resource Development Ministry that “there is no homework upto class II and (homework can be given) two hours a week from class III.” Therefore, no school affiliated to CBSE can prescribe or give homework to class I and class II students.
The judge, referring to various research experts and a parenting psychologist, said, “Many experts find that homework is beneficial only to older kids whereas young children are notably lacking in executive control, the ability to concentrate, to follow directions, to control impulses and keep the details in mind. Therefore, it is unrealistic to expect the KG students, first and second class students to do homework, assignment on their own and homework for class I and II children have to be prohibited.”
The judge, referring to various experts in the medical field, in his order, said, “The doctors say that on an average five-or-six-year-old needs about 11 hours of sleep each night and if they leave for school early in the morning, they should have an early bedtime. Therefore, homework would reduce the sleep hours of the growing children,” he said, adding that NCERT rightly prescribed no homework for classes I and II students.
The judge said, “It is shocking and surprising to note that grammar and computer science have been prescribed for Class I students. It is not understandable as to how five-year-old children could comprehend the concept of computer or understand General Knowledge. Further teaching of grammar shall not be a subject for children as per NCERT syllabus Vol I Elementary level. It is evident that CBSE schools are unnecessarily pressuring the children by teaching irrelevant subjects which have not been prescribed by NCERT or by CBSE,” the judge said.
The judge also did not miss mentioning about state board schools. In his interim order, he said, “Similar is the case with the state board schools and in other systems. Young children are taxed with homework and unnecessary subjects.” The judge said state board schools too should follow the directions issued by NCERT.
The HC, issuing the directions, posted the matter after four weeks for a compliance report by the Centre, the state governments and the union territories.