Balancing work and play

Academic education and co-curricular activities are interwoven in every educational institution in various grades.

It is the voice of the spirit of powerful educationists who refuse to swear by academics alone. Young minds need exposure, relaxation and learning which should aid them to express themselves articulately and accurately.

 Freedom of expression automatically opens vistas of general knowledge, common sense and creativity which in turn lays a firm foundation to a very intellectual, democratic and humane society. It is with this intention co-curricular activities were introduced as a package in schools and colleges across the globe. These activities range from incorporating regular classes which deal with the all round development of the child both physically and mentally.

 A couple of decades ago, the schools would allot one or two classes over a week to guide the students through a creative subject of their interest. The areas could range anywhere from drawing, arts, debates, poetry, music to name a few.  While this system aimed at not pressurising students to do something against their will, it also gave them the wrong signal that they could neglect these ‘subjects.’

Trimester system
This is the reason why the Karnataka SSLC board has introduced the trimester system where Part B of the academics is evaluated on the basis of their skills in SUPW, life skills, computers, physical education and the like sort which is aimed at making the student competent.

 The co-curricular activity has manifested itself in a thousand different ways over the decades. Most reputed schools and colleges have mini clubs covering a plethora of subjects. They have competitions in just about every area both at the intra and inter school levels. Many schools encourage resource persons from various organisations to conduct special programmes to boost the morale and elevate the general knowledge level of the students.

While the inherent goodness of having these co-curricular activities is self-evident and time-tested, one cannot help seeing the flipside of the situation. Some schools and colleges have an overdose of these activities sometimes to the point of decadence. The academic calendar is regularly dotted with ethnic day, sari day, rose day, friendship day and the like where a lot of superficial importance is given to frivolous aspect while the regular classes for the day go for a toss. Cultural activities have invariably boiled down to dancing to filmi tunes and walking down the ramp in flimsy clothes.

Some institutions rope in corporates to sponsor events, exotic national and international destinations are chosen to conduct the fete, the impressionable audience is encouraged to SMS and vote for the best team. A tidy sum is spent on inviting influential guests of honour and judges who are aces in their respective fields in order to boost the image of their organisations. These moves certainly make them a cynosure in the eyes of the prospective students in the coming years all the while upgrading the height of their pedestal, but how does it enhance academic standards?

Parents and guardians who are not financially strong are afraid of the various functions celebrated in schools and colleges because they have to incur a lot of expenditure on their costumes and training.

Students themselves feel that academics have taken a backseat in some high profile schools and colleges. Students who are academically oriented feel belittled because their “cooler counterparts” who represent the institution by taking part in extracurricular activities, get bonafide attendance and get copies of xeroxed notes to compensate for the classes they have missed. One faction completely appreciates the talented students and goes to any extent to play cheerleaders, while the ones who resent the trend feel that they are akin to flowers that have bloomed unseen, unsung and unhonoured for being “just students” and they are dubbed as the “green faction” which symbolises their envy. It is disheartening to note that the well-meaning activity code adhered to by colleges is declining to decadent levels in the name of pomposity and lending demoniac dimensions to an essential and laudable action.

True, ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ but it is vital for the educational institutions to workout a via media to strike the right balance between academics and extra-curricular activities  for,’“Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.”

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