Sports Period Compulsory in Schools: Building a Healthy Future for India
On 2nd June, 2018, the Union Human Resource Development Minister, Prakash Javadekar, announced that the NCERT syllabus will be reduced to half its current volume from the 2019-2020 academic year. This move has been prompted not just by the academic pressure on students, but also by the need for co-curricular activities, such as sports and value education, for a more holistic development of the learners. It is presumed that The Parliament of India might soon introduce an amendment to the Education Act with several measures that will benefit the learners of the Indian K-12 sector. One significant measure that is predicted to be part of the amendment is the compulsory inclusion of a sports sessions for all grades, including grades 9 to 12, starting from 2019. This, according to Union Sports Minister, Rajyavardhan Rathore, aims to emphasize the need for sports in the education process of youngsters. In a public announcement on August 6, 2018, the Minister further added that in the long term, this move will give a boost to the growth of sports in India.
To bring the move to fruition, all centrally-aided schools will be given sports equipments by the government. Primary schools will get equipments worth ₹5,000, upper primary will get equipments worth ₹10,000, and SSC and HSC schools will get equipments worth ₹25,000. Additionally, the Government of India is ensuring that more money is spent on sports itself by reducing the manpower of the Sports Authority of India by 50 percent, and establishing 20 specialised sports schools in 2018 with an investment of 7-10 crores for each school. Each school will focus on two or three main sports so that they become expert training centres for those particular sports.
This decision was influenced by the increasingly sedentary lifestyle of Indian students resulting in health problems such as obesity, high blood sugar and poor eyesight. “India is at number 3 when it comes to obesity,” says Sachin Tendulkar, the illustrious former cricketer of India, which is a cause of serious concern. He opines that ‘a strong sporting culture’ is needed to mitigate the circumstances, and that initiatives towards this end should include all grades and not just grades 9 to 12. To this end, he has sent a letter to the Chairperson of CBSE, Anita Karwal.
The CBSE board has prepared a 150-page manual, delineating the guidelines for implementing compulsory sports period in schools. Students will have to go to the playground during the mandatory Health and Physical Education (HPE) periods where they are free to perform any physical activity mentioned in the manual. They should also be graded on their performance in these physical activities. The HPE period will be different from and independent of the optional Physical Education (PE) courses taken by students of classes 10 and 12. It will be a completely practical subject with no theory at all, and no specialised physical education teacher will be required to conduct this period. All teachers will be eligible to implement and evaluate the students for HPE, and the evaluation will be done on the basis of the whole process and not just on one or two activities. Students are also required to do an outdoor project, which can be anything from a national park tour to a cleanliness campaign. Participation in HPE is mandatory for appearing in the board exams for classes 10 and 12, although the HPE marks will not be added to the final marks.
This move has sparked debates among parents and educators regarding the necessity of physical education in the curriculum. Most people think sports and physical training have a lot to contribute to the development of a child. Children learn team-building and leadership skills, and also learn to develop relationships with their peers, which in turn helps in their socio-emotional growth. Most of all, physical exercise helps in building physical strength and agility, and staying healthy in general. Physical exercise also enhances mental activity, thus helping children to concentrate better in academics. Being amidst nature has been found to improve mental health, which is a requirement for young minds to flourish. Outdoor sports can also inspire children to pursue sports professionally, which is a less-preferred career choice in India.
However, there are some who feel that it is a waste of time to make sports compulsory in grades 9 to 12 when the board exams are close and students need to devote more time to academics. These people also feel that students who do not perform well in sports may get bullied by others and can eventually develop an inferiority complex. Some parents feel that making the sports period mandatory may limit a student’s choice of extracurricular activities, such as music, where he or she might be more interested in investing their time. It has also been pointed out that the mandate is unfair for physically challenged students as they might not be able to meet the requirements of the subject, and might also feel excluded when they see their peers participating while they can’t, which might in turn hurt their self-esteem.
It is important for CBSE to consider the different perspectives of parents and educators regarding the mandatory sports period, and ensure that this move becomes advantageous for all kinds of learners. It is, however, equally important for students to understand the importance of outdoor sports and exercise, and the need to keep themselves healthy in order to contribute to the prosperity of the nation in future.