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Lighter backpacks, happier students
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Students in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province are the first to benefit from new regulations to reduce the weight of school bags.

The Qingyang district education bureau stipulated on Friday that the bags of primary and junior high-school students should not be heavier than 10 percent of a student's weight, to prevent harm to his or her spinal column.

Schools are now required to have drawers or lockers for books and mugs, provide boiled water and limit changes in class schedules to lessen the load of students.

From November 17, the bureau will carry out inspections to ensure students' bags are within the permitted weight limits.

School principals will be held accountable if students' bags are too heavy, bureau deputy Party secretary Zhang Huabing, said.

Regulations also forbid schools to buy students reference books and auxiliary teaching materials, or persuade children to buy them.

Similarly, parents were told to ensure children do not carry unnecessary stationery or toys in their bags.

On Monday, bureau official Li Peiqin led a team on a preliminary spot check in the district's Jinsha Primary School.

While parents had been notified of the new regulations, a few of the school bags were found to be over the weight limit.

School principal Zhong Ying said lockers are available for students to keep their books, but many parents still insist their children take the books home for studying - reflecting the stiff competition under the exam-driven education system.

An official with the bureau's general office, Ren Yan, said these efforts should serve as a wake-up call for people to move away from the undesirable aspects of the education system.

(China Daily November 1, 2007)

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