Equal play and work is name of the game

A recent suggestion from the Union ministry says that the syllabi of school students must be cut down so that they can concentrate on the sports scene. (PTI File Photo. For representation purpose)

“Why can’t India, a country of two billion people, produce at least a few gold medallists at the Olympics?” is the most frequently asked question in the world of sports.

A recent suggestion from the Union ministry says that the syllabi of school students must be cut down so that they can concentrate on the sports scene. The answer to this question appears to be made forthrightly with a sense of smug self-righteousness!

Yet, when one scratches the surface of the matter, it is easy to see that at the head of every new academic year, new hopes, aspirations and anticipation charge the air. Just about every school comes up with a plethora of extra-curricular activities to enthuse students to evolve a well-rounded personality.

The timetable of each educational institution manages to squeeze in a little time for every feasible activity that will add a new dimension to the child’s personality and eventually insert a feather to the pupil’s cap.

While most activities that revolve around culture and academics can be accommodated within the limits of the institutions’ infrastructure, sports and other physical training takes a back seat in 60% of schools for the sheer lack of having a playground on their premises.

Some schools have tried to circumvent this lacuna by renting out some public parks or vacant sites within a reasonable distance from the school building, while some other enterprising schools manage to conduct physical training and sports activities on their terrace itself.

Each class is allotted its rightful share of physical activity under a trained instructor. The students are directed to wear comfortable sportswear uniform complete with cap, shoes et al on specific days of the week to take part in outdoor activities. Most schools have at least the very basic equipment in their sports kitty suitable for both indoor and outdoor games to keep the students occupied through an assortment of seasons.

The sports activities begin with a bang and go on very successfully for the first two or three months. When monsoon sets in, it usually coincides with a round of tests and sports activities take a break. Then schools concentrate on celebrating the Independence Day with aplomb utilising the time allotted for physical activities. Usually, most sporting activities wind up halfway through the academic year with sports day, while more committed schools carry on till January.

Somehow, the initial enthusiasm and zeal dies out owing to various practical and perfectly understandable reasons. This trend is true of even schools which have all the requisite sports essentials.

Best-laid plans

Teachers, students and parents will vouch for the fact that despite best-laid plans, students spent less than 50% of their prescribed time in outdoor activities. Heavy syllabus, constant tests and other co-curricular activities invariably eat into their time and usually the games period faces the axe first.

Physical education periods habitually metamorphose into extra classes which help teachers to “complete portions” without making the students spend extra time before or after school. When “school day” is around the corner, the children are directed to utilise the physical training classes for preparing and practising for the upcoming function. Towards the end of the academic year, these classes are used for elaborate revision sessions or for conducting surprise tests in various subjects.

Sports teachers are engaged in various aspects of administrative and academic work to keep them occupied, so that they are not paid in vain by the government or the management.

When one analyses the scenario, it is not hard to see that school going children lead a sedentary life which can be detrimental to their well-being in the long run.

It is quite likely that the realisation of this latent reality has prompted the powers-that-be to bat for sports and equalise the time given to it with academics. Yet, what is frightening is the thought that if the new idea is implemented zealously, academics will be put in the backburner which can eventually upset the fabric of our country. Hence we must make sure that academics and sports stay compartmentalised and do not encroach into each other’s territory.  

Even if we do not win those prestigious medals at the next Olympics, we can ensure that we inculcate sportsmanship, team spirit, endurance and enthusiasm without compromising on academics. We must remember that only a healthy body can house a healthy mind which in turn can make a constructive contribution towards nation building.

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Equal play and work is name of the game

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