The balance sheet of the Sri Lankan education system: quality or quantity?


Bag weight is something related to “quantity” that we need to review while improving “quality”

– Photo by Shehan Gunasekara




We are now witnessing the worst economic crisis in Sri Lanka with all the hardships for ordinary people. According to my reading, all we can see are only the “symptoms” of the “real problem” and the underlying causes need to be investigated. In this scenario, I see the “education system in Sri Lanka” as part of this “real problem”.

As we know, with the blessings of Dr. Kannanagara’s “free education”, Sri Lanka has made progress in education in the past. You can explain this with a better literacy rate as an indicator. Unfortunately, the education system has not changed for years to align with the demands of society. I have seen some experts discuss different education best practices in countries like Sweden in many forums in Sri Lanka, but with no real impact on the system itself. We have witnessed many negative outcomes (in terms of deteriorating quality of people in society, education ranking in Sri Lanka) by questioning “quality education in Sri Lanka”. In this article, I will address one facet of this “real problem” and that is related to the “size of the binder” which I consider to be part and parcel of this problem.

In Sri Lanka, you can observe a 25-kilo pupil bringing a 10-kilo school bag! I consider this as a measure to indicate the disaster of our educational system. Most children in grades six to ten have about 10 topics a day wondering if Sri Lankan educators have done justice to our next generation (which we need to discuss in a separate article).

In India, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) last year prescribed a weight limit for schoolbags for each class. Thus, the weight of schoolbags for students in classes one and two must not exceed 1.5 kg, while the schoolbag for students in classes three to five must weigh between 2 kg and 3 kg. The school bag for students in classes six and seven must not exceed 4 kg, while the weight of the school bags for students in classes eight and nine must not exceed 4.5 kg. A class 10 student’s school bag must not weigh more than 5 kg. Even in Peshawar, Pakistan, the department of primary and secondary education has decided that the weight of the school bag should not exceed 15% of that of the student.

It can be observed that a seventh grader in Sri Lanka brings more than 200% of the stipulated weight limit which would lead to many ergonomic issues. A report by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission published that more than 22,000 college students suffered from back pain-related injuries in 2013 (Khan, 2018). The majority of them carry up to 25% of their body weight.

A study in Al-Ahsa, Saudi Arabia found that 1,860 (approximately 73%) out of 2,567 students carry bags that weigh more than 15% of their body weight and 42% of students reported headaches. back. In India, the burden of schoolbags, as estimated in some districts of Telangana, weighs around 6-12 kg at primary level and 12-17 kg at secondary level (Khan, 2018). In Sri Lanka, it can be suggested to have a proper study on this to investigate the seriousness of the problem with a weight limit of schoolbags.

There is an urgent need to review the education system in Sri Lanka in many aspects. But in this article, I would like to focus on “quantity versus quality” of the country’s education system. The weight of the bag is something related to “quantity” that we need to review while improving “quality”. As I mentioned earlier, this is one of the symptoms of the “real problem” we are facing in the country and the authorities should take this seriously as a matter of priority.


(The author is Professor of Management Studies at the Faculty of Management Studies, Open University of Sri Lanka. You can reach him at [email protected])