Party's eighth survey shows the problem is still 'very severe' Parents, schools and the Education Department seem to be ignoring the problem of children having to carry school bags that are too heavy for them, it was claimed yesterday. Nearly 80 per cent of the bags put on a scale by members of the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong exceeded the acceptable level of 10 per cent of their owners' weight, based on recommendations from the American Chiropractic Association and other international studies. 'We have been doing this school bag weighing exercise for eight years now and have seen little improvement. Parents, schools and the Education Department all need to do more to improve the situation - the problem is very severe,' DAB chairman and Exco member Tsang Yok-sing said. The main problem was the weight of textbooks children had to carry, he said, adding that in countries such as the United States, schools provided the books and they were left on the premises. 'I've just seen one small kid who weighs 40 pounds and her bag weighed 10 pounds - that's a quarter of her body weight,' Mr Tsang said. But Secretary for Education and Manpower Arthur Li Kwok-cheung tried to put a positive spin on the issue. 'Of course, the lighter the students' bag the better. We do not want students to always have to carry a heavy load, but they can also look upon it as a kind of exercise,' he said. 'We hope schools can select lighter books and allocate lockers or other space for students to put them aside. 'The advice we have from the Department of Health is that it is not harmful for students' health and development to carry school bags weighing less than 15 per cent of their body weight.' Heavy school bags were not uncommon during the 45-minute spot check yesterday at several schools in Siu Sai Wan, said a DAB member helping a small child unload her backpack before stepping on to the scale. 'There was a tiny six-year-old, weighing 63lb, and her bag weighed 15lb,' she said. Nearly one in 10 schoolchildren suffers from a spinal problem linked to carrying a heavy bag, according to figures issued by the Department of Health's Student Health Service last September. The number of children diagnosed with scoliosis - or curvature of the spine - has been rising steadily over the years, from 6.2 per cent in the 1999-2000 school year to 8 per cent in 2000-2001 and 9.2 per cent last year, said Mak Kwok-hang, a community medicine consultant in charge of the government-sponsored Student Health Service. The latest figures will be released on Monday. In January last year, a boy, nine, fell 20 floors to his death in Tuen Mun after his school bag - loaded with books for the first day of term - apparently pulled him over safety railings outside his flat.