Sports, a ‘YES’ since primary classes but allow children to pursue it in their way

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Physical education teachers are still an option and not a necessity. So is Sports in the Indian curriculum?

PT teachers who could mould a competent team is still a rarity in India

Sports in the Indian education system is still ‘Unwanted, ‘Underrated’ & Mishandled’

When you allow children to play sports the way they want to play, it inadvertently helps them to acquire several skills and life lessons

Years ago, I remember my physical education teacher sitting close to a staircase that led to the upper storeys of my school. He was given just a wooden table and a chair. The school authorities were not even bothered to give him a space along with other teachers in the staff room. 

Though old, but fit as a fiddle, he carried out his duties as a PT teacher with due diligence. 

And as a little girl, it surprised me and I used to think “Was he an outcast? “Though the exact word did not strike me then, I used to feel that the other teachers had ostracized him. But for what?

Now I know.. the school authorities had not ostracized him but Sports. This picture perfectly portrays the place of Sports in the Indian education system – unwanted, underrated and mishandled.

Years later, when I spoke to my colleagues and friends associated with sports, they told me that things have not changed one bit, unfortunately.

The majority of the physical education teachers in India are still playing the role of storekeepers for the school or an alternate option when teachers of other subjects could not turn up for some reason. Long and short, physical education teachers are still an option and not a necessity in the Indian curriculum.

Nevertheless, the number of Sports teachers who could mould a competent sports team for the school or college is still a rarity in our country.

With this ugly picture not well hidden, how could you even expect or hope that India could win laurels in International Sports? 

It’s high time, we did a reality check. No doubt, by undermining their role, we are also taking many steps backwards when it comes to Sports. And this article is certainly not to talk about their roles but to pinpoint how our children lose inherently acquired talents by doing so.

Even when we say sports should be prioritised right from the primary classes, it’s high time we threw obsolete methods out of the window and follow a different approach, says Sijin BT, Sports Management Guru, sportswriter and founder of Sports Management and Research Institute (SMRI)

“You would be surprised if I say it should not be made a compulsory subject in the Indian curriculum,” he told me with a little mischief in his eyes.

Sijin says “What I meant to say is there should be sports in the form of various games. And in the primary classes, of course, the children should be allowed to play the way they want to play.”

By allowing them to do so, we are inadvertently helping them to learn not only skills but also various life lessons. Let me explain,” Sijin continues.

“Do you remember an incident when a video of a group of children in Nilambur, a town in Kerala went viral when they convened a meeting to buy a football?” he asks.

Many well-wishers came forward and bought them not only football but also jerseys and boots. What would have happened if somebody had not shot it and uploaded it on social media?

They might have employed different skill sets to come up with what they wanted. For instance, they would have bought a football by sharing their pocket money

or might have made a ball out of old cloth or any other materials. As zealous they seemed about the game of football, they would have certainly come up with substantial ideas to fulfil their needs.

“I am sorry to say the above-mentioned gesture by the well-wishers unwittingly spoiled those children’s natural talent to solve the hurdles that sprang upon their path,” Sijin said. 

“When you allow sports into their lives, it teaches them how to be self-reliant.”

A child learns the first lessons in human resources management when he interacts with his classmates through games. It’s the same when he invites friends to play and while selecting a team too. His preference for partners in games changes with his experience.

As years go by, the children also learn lessons in financial management and cooperation, say, when they buy a ball by sharing their pocket money.

Sijin adds “My point is our kids must be allowed to play freely and voluntarily to acquire these knowledge, skills and abilities and as grownups, we should create a favourable environment for them. Then it wouldn’t be a tussle to organise a competent team for any games.”

Devan C H, a Kerala based Certified coach with more than five years of experience in the field, a footballer and an assistant professor of Sociology in Vimala College, Thrissur also seconds Sijin and conveys that Sports could help children acquire many skills that would make them not only good athletes but also well-balanced human beings.

“Life comes with a lot of uncertainties. So, when they are into sports, it teaches them how to overcome a chain of uncertainties daily and that too with a sportsman spirit. This comes handy when you deal with the uncertainties of life.” 

To support his theory Devan says according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, Finland has the best-developed education system in the world and the Finnish education system has tried and tested the aforesaid methods in their curriculum. And just see the wonders it is doing for their children.

“The education system in Finland is very popular. They allow the children to pursue the activities of their choice. For the children of Finland, a school is a place where they play. If they want to climb a tree, they would do it. If they want to speak different languages, they do that. And they knew four to five languages. Imagine learning languages and other required skills all by themselves.”

So, when we speak about Sports, erase those pictures of competitions from your mind, instead think about what it can do to basic physical fitness apart from all other benefits mentioned above, Devan says.

In an age of smartphones and other diversions, Sports gives them not only focus but also health and undivided attention. No doubt, mental well-being will soon follow suit.

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1 COMMENT

  1. I do not know about Kerala but many primary and elementary schools elsewhere lack open ground or space for playing. I am not sure whether a play ground is an essential requisite for approval before starting a school.
    It is a very nicely written piece stressing the advantages of sports in shaping the children

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