Madras HC calls for ban on homework for Class I and II students, pushes for lighter school bags

Meera Emmanuel

In an effort to prevent the destruction of young minds by a faulty Indian educational system that children are thrust into, Justice N Kirubakaran of the Madras High Court has ordered a prohibition on homework for students in classes I and II, across CBSE as well as other state schools across the country.

The order was passed in a writ petition filed by Advocate Purushothaman, who had raised several concerns pertaining to student welfare, including the prescription of syllabus beyond the rules of the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), and concerns that children were made to do homework in violation of NCERT guidelines.

Taking view of the larger picture in question, Justice Kirubakaran has passed a slew of directions aimed at reducing the workload on young students.

The directions are oriented to counter the robbing of innocence and creativity of young children between “ambitious” parents, “taskmaster” teachers and “result oriented” school managements. Coming down heavily on this culture, the judge remarked,

Children are moulded as memory chips to store informations, due to faulty pattern of educational system and to download them in the examinations to prove their memory capacity which is the yardstick to assess and measure the alleged merits of the children [sic].”

Justice Kirubakaran has therefore passed the following directions in the interest of child welfare.

Prohibition on homework for Class I & II students

As far as CBSE schools are concerned, the judge was apprised that the NCERT has already directed that no homework should be given to students in these grades. Therefore, no school affiliated to CBSE can prescribe or give homework to Class I and Class II students.

Further, the judge saw it fit to extend this prohibition to schools following other educational curriculum as well, particularly in light of the following concerns:

No benefit to imposing homework on young students: The judge went on to observe that expert opinions on a global level indicate that young children are not appropriately developed for homework to be beneficial for them. It was held,

Therefore, it is unrealistic to expect the KG students, first and second class students to do homework, assignment on their own and homeworks to class I and II children have to be prohibited.”

Notably, the judge has also made note that students in Finland are rarely made to do homework up until their teen years. Despite this, they have performed remarkably well in rounds of International Student Assessment.

Homework and unnecessary stress: The judge has raised concerns that imposing homework on young children is also likely to interfere with their sleep patterns. While young children should ideally have an eleven-hour sleep cycle, Justice Kirubakaran was of the view that homework would reduce the sleep hours of growing children.

Another concern factored in was that children are made to hold pencil and write, when they are not physically ready. The judge made note that experts are of the opinion that pre-school should not introduce formal writing until the age of five.

Therefore, he specifically directed the state to ensure that children not be allowed/made to hold pencils till they become five-year olds.

Schools cannot extend curriculum beyond the NCERT prescription

It was found that NCERT guidelines were compulsory. The Court emphasised that,

When Government of India and NCERT decide about the curriculum, CBSE and the schools affiliated to CBSE are bound to follow the very same syllabus and books prescribed by NCERT.”

Hence, the Court ordered for the compliance of an NCERT circular that prescribes the use NCERT books alone for CBSE students.

With particular reference to Class I and II students, the Court made note that the syllabus was being extended beyond the NCERT-prescribed curriculum.

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’.”

On the other hand, the only prescribed subjects for these classes were language and mathematics. Justice Kirubakaran noted,

…it is evident that CBSE schools are unnecessarily pressurizing the children by teaching irrelevant subjects which have not been prescribed by NCERT or by CBSE.

Therefore, the Court has  ordered that the authorities be directed,

Not to prescribe any other subjects except language and Mathematics for Class I & II students and language EVS and mathematics for classes III to V.

Another notable direction passed is a mandate on the state to ensure that children should not be made to carry heavy school bags at risk to their health. Referring to The Children School Bags (Limitation on Weight) Bill, 2006, the Court has also directed the state and union governments to formulate  policy in this area.

The issued directions are to take effect from this academic year onwards i.e. 2018-19 onwards.

Before parting with the order, the Court also emphasised that any attempt to violate the directions would be viewed very seriously, since it affects the young children and the nation. Compliance reports are expected to furnished when the Court takes the matter up in four weeks.

Read Order below:

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