Time to free our kids from the burden of overweight school bags

October 11, 2019 18:47
The government has not been taking the issue of overweight school bags seriously over the years, says the author. Photo: HKEJ

According to a recent survey, many students in Hong Kong are carrying overweight school bags every day.

It is beyond dispute that overweight school bags have a negative impact on the health of schoolchildren.

And Hong Kong isn’t alone in having this problem. In developed countries like the United States, Ireland, New Zealand and Japan, local students are also struggling with the issue of overweight school bags.

In the developing world, countries like India, Pakistan and Thailand are also facing the same problem.

However, the issue of overweight school bags is particularly severe in Hong Kong. While authorities in other places have been dealing with this problem head-on, our administration has simply not been taking this weighty issue seriously.

Back in 1998, several members of the Legislative Council's education panel at the time expressed their concerns about the problem of overweight school bags, and put forward a set of proposals to address the issue to the then Education Department.

Unfortunately, what the administration has done over the years is to issue non-binding guidelines for schools and teachers on how to reduce the weight of school bags, and that’s it.

Twenty-one years on, many of the school kids who had gone through the daily struggle of carrying weighty school bags for years have now become parents themselves, yet their own children are still facing the same old problem, which hasn’t seen any real improvement over the past two decades.

The only change is probably the stance of the Department of Health on this issue.

In 2002, the Audit Commission published a report, in which it cited a suggestion made by the Department of Health that as a precautionary measure, the department isn’t against the suggestion of preventing school children from carrying for long hours school bags that are heavier than 10 to 15 percent of their own body weight.

But today, the health department states on its website that the weight of a school bag should not exceed 10 percent of a schoolchild’s weight. The EDB did follow through on this as an indicator, only that it has never managed to meet the target over the years.

Now, will it take another 20 years for our government to truly address the issue and free our children from their overweight school bags?

I believe it is now time for the administration to adopt some tangible measures to substantially reduce the weight of school bags rather than just paying lip service to the well-being and health of our children.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct 5

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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