Sports in school, a game-changer

The central government’s proposal to integrate sports in the school curriculum is a welcome
move as it will help give a more serious role for sports and games in students’ education. At present, physical education and sports are a part of students’ activities in most schools but they are mostly optional. The facilities are also not available in many, and perhaps most, schools. The proposal is to make sports a subject which students have to pass like the others in the curriculum. The plan is to introduce the new policy in phases, starting with Class I in the next academic year. The system will move up the higher classes every year, and will be implemented in the higher secondary stage also in due course. The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) will take the lead in the implementation and involve the state education boards in it. It is felt that there is no need for a law on the matter, and it can be implemented through executive guidelines. It is unlikely that there will be any objection to the proposal in principle.

The proposal has come to be considered after continuous failure of the country at international sports events, including the Rio Olympics. There is hardly any event in which Indian sportspersons perform up to world standards. Cricket, chess and a couple of other games are the only exceptions. It is unnatural that India, with the world’s second largest population, should fare so badly in sports. Interests and talents have to be spotted early and nurtured so that children grow into good sportspersons. Students are encouraged to participate in sports and games in many states and schools, and incentives are offered to those who achieve distinction and win honours. But this may not be enough. Making sports an integral part of education will lead to participation of all children from the beginning in some sport or the other. This can help in early discovery of talent. Students will also develop an active interest in sports.

While the proposal has merit, its implementation will pose great challenges. The necessary infrastructure and facilities have to be put in place in all schools. Coaches and instructors will have to be appointed. Many schools do not have even playgrounds. Adequate funds will have to be allocated. Clear rules and guidelines will have to be evolved for participation and evaluation of students so that there will be no scope for complaints about any aspect of the working of the system. This is important because the performance in sports will be a factor in the students’ overall merit.

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