Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Children’s schoolbags should be lighter

Posted by butalidnl on 16 September 2009

Pampanga Rep. Carmelo Lazatin has filed a bill seeking to limit the size and weight of textbooks schoolchildren need to carry.  This bill, he hopes, would end the practice of small children carrying very heavy bags to school.  The bill calls on the Department of Education to consider the size and weight of books before approving them, and schools to provide lockers to students/pupils so that they could leave books at school instead of bringing them home every time, only to haul them all back to school the next day.

I think Lazatin’s bill will be a good first step in reducing the weight of schoolbags. However, it does not go far enough.  There is a whole system that needs to be changed to really make it light for students.  For example, I know of a case when the school encouraged students to leave their books in lockers at school, only to back down when parents complained that they paid for expensive books, but they don’t get to see them at home.

And it has a lot to do with the practice of doing homework. In the Philippines, teachers regularly give homework to even the youngest children. The children often need to have their books on hand to do this. But why should very young children have homework? In the Netherlands, where I live, children only start having homework at about Grade 6, and not even every day. I don’t think the children here end up being less smart as a result.  Children in the Philippines spend a lot of time in school, why don’t they allot study periods when they could do their reading and  other extra assignments while still at school. That way, their books don’t need to be brought home, and when the children go home they don’t need to think of school.

Perhaps the heavy schoolbags symbolize  how heavy primary education is for the children in the Philippines.  I feel that primary education should be lighter, more fun, designed with the purpose of making children want to learn, want to find out things, want to interact with people.  We don’t need to cram them with facts, but inculcate them with the habit of finding out, seeking facts. And when they are in high school, they can put these to good use to learn the whole range of subjects.
This is not an idealistic idea… it is what my children went through in the Netherlands.  In the elementary school they learn first just reading, writing, and some arithmetic. History, social studies, even English come only in Grade 5, and homework is done only in Grade 6 (in preparation for highschool, when they will have loads of homework).  It can be done.

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