Follow Us:

Extra period won’t yield medals

Jagdeep S More |

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has taken a path-breaking decision for millions of school children by making it mandatory for schools to allocate at least one period every day for Health and Physical Education (HPE) from the current session.

The guidelines show the collaboration of the HRD Ministry with the Sports ministry aiming at producing medal winning sportspersons in the future. It is a welcome step for school students as it will provide them a platform to nurture their talent.

The HPE manual issued by the Board integrates games, yoga, physical exercises, life-skills and value education for holistic development of a child. The HPE component is divided into four strands namely Games/Sports, Health & Fitness, Social Empowerment through Work Education and Action (SEWA) and Health & Activity card records. Each strand is allocated fixed periods and marks.

The guidelines further state that there will be no theory classes as a part of this format. Every child is free to choose the game of his/her choice. The manual designates the class teacher responsible for ensuring that each child participates in all strands and who will facilitate them in the absence of a sports teacher.

It is mandatory for the schools to implement HPE and upload a report of work accomplished across the secondary and senior secondary grades for enabling students to sit for the Board examination. This obligatory clause has come as a nightmare for schools.

The HPE circular issued by the Board came less like a set of guidelines but more like a fatwa. It seems the manual has been borrowed from a foreign agency like the infamous and failed Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) system of the board. The board has not even taken the infrastructure hurdles of schools into consideration but pronounced that a mammoth task is to be undertaken.

There are numerous schools across India affiliated in the 1970s and 80s which have either moderately-size playgrounds or no playgrounds at all. Considering a school having four sections each of 40 students from class ninth to twelfth, the allocation of the time table is a daunting task. To accommodate over 100 students in a playground at a time and ensuring their safety is in itself a challenge.

The HPE format gives students the liberty to choose a game/sport of their choice. It is beyond comprehension how a teacher will manage a class of over four dozen students choosing different games in one period. The board executives have not even bothered to look at these issues before issuing the injunction.

Placing the responsibility on the class teacher itself makes a mockery of the orders. At secondary and senior secondary levels, a class teacher is a specialist of her/his subject and not a physical education teacher. The thought of an economics or physics teacher in her late fifties guiding young pupils on the intricacies of playing basketball suggests how ridiculous the idea is. Policy makers feel it is desirable for every teacher to know the basics of games. It is like an English teacher teaching mathematics when the subject teacher is absent on the pretext that every teacher should know basic maths.

The component of SEWA – Social Empowerment through Work Education and Action – is again proving difficult for schools. Schools have become cautious about taking students out for excursions and other community services due to frequent occurrences of untoward incidences during the past year.

On the one hand, the government has failed to formulate a sound education policy and has failed miserably to enact even a single law for the welfare of teachers. On the other hand, it wants them to perform magical feats to change the education system of the country overnight. SEWA also involves maintenance of voluminous records, which will hamper the already overburdened schedule of students.

In our country, board examinations and results are so competitive and stressful for a child that they offer little scope for leisure. The policy of mainstreaming HPE is good in intent but it is hard to implement. The fear is it should not meet a fate like CCE where bogus records were kept by schools without delivering its effective end-product.

Most schools in our country are academics-oriented and sports facilities merely complement academic pursuits. The call of the hour is to provide impetus to our sports budgets. The education system needs an overhaul where more and more sports schools should be set up and sports should be treated at par with academics by ensuring life-long livelihood commitment to sportspersons.

Government should understand that if it so serious about increasing our Olympics medal tally, we should improve the sports infrastructure we provide to our kids on the lines of China rather than giving them one extra free period.

The writer is an educationist.