sports-in-schoolInside the country’s academic and non-academic corridors, debates have been going on for years to make sports part of the school curriculum. Last year, during the winter session of the parliament, the issue was raised in the Rajya Sabha when Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports, Vijay Goel told the House in a written reply that his ministry has sent a proposal to make sports a compulsory subject in schools. It was sent to the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry, which controls education.

Things Have Crystallised

Come next year and the central government is making sports compulsory in schools. The road map indicates that it will initially cover class-I, and then will be introduced to higher classes in a phased manner. But then it will move in consonance with the government’s no-detention policy until class-VIII. That means, only after class-VIII, it will become mandatory for every student to pass in sports. That also means no student will be promoted to higher classes unless he or she clears a sports-related subject.

Will it Help Create A Sports Culture in India?

Indeed, the move is going to benefit the country in the long term. It is disappointing to see that India fails to match international standards in every big event, despite having 1.3 billion population. In her last Olympics, in Rio in Brazil, India won merely two medals (one silver, one bronze) out of the total 119-strong contingent the country sent for this big sporting event.

If records of India’s performance in Olympics in the past three decades are to be seen, the country has won only one gold medal in the men’s 10 m rifle in 2008. Previous gold medals, eight between 1928-1980, were won in the field of hockey. Its scintillating performance in Olympics was witnessed for the first time in London in 2012 when it bagged six medals, its best ever haul.

In Asian games or Commonwealth games also, the country has failed to put up above-than-average show. Lack of resources is generally attributed to be the factor behind such statistic; however, experts have a different view on this issue. They say more than the lack of resources and funding, it is a deficiency of sports culture which is putting impediments in the way of producing larger number of talents.

It has been seen that majority of people, including those belonging to the middle class, encourage youngsters to pick up sports like cricket or badminton than any other game when a choice is given to them for their participation in sports. Gloomy future prospects that are usually associated with outdoor games like football, hockey, volleyball, basketball, kabbadi, cycling, swimming and others, coupled with lack of institutional encouragement is what holds the people from making their wards choose sports as their career.

Will This Move Help Increase Employment Opportunities?

The move, it is believed, will create job opportunities as well. The country is in dire need of qualified sports coaches and trainers. Though under the Sports Authority of India (SAI), an apex sports body which was set up in 1984, there are 12 centres catering to the requirement of sports, but they train only a select few.

Some of them offer a variety of courses in sports coaching and sports medicine. The SAI’s Thiruvananthapuram-based regional centre also conducts graduate and post-graduate courses in physical education. But overall, those trained from these institutes are either deployed in the SAI’s regional centres or the state governments’ institutes. Only a very few are deployed in universities, colleges, schools and Nehru Youth Kendras, primarily due to the fact that not enough qualified coaches are produced.

It is felt that once the culture of sports becomes an essential cog of the country’s educational system and necessary infrastructure is built around it, there will enough coaches and skilled trainers in the country. A few years ago, a report submitted to the now disbanded Planning Commission will serve as an eye opener on the inadequacy of coaches across the country.

The report said: “Allocation of coaches to the states is inadequate and not matching in turns of geographical area and population.” It indicates clearly that India, its 29 states and a multitude of departments and establishments are facing huge dearth of well-trained professionals to take care of budding talents in the sports arena.

Will the Scheme Face Hurdles?

Sports and education are state subjects. The central government cannot force the state governments to implement all that the former thinks is necessary. As such the way out for the Centre is to put the ball in the court of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and get the scheme implemented through the central institutes’ widespread reach.

Whether the state boards follow suit or not, but it appears the government will launch the scheme (of making sports a part of school curriculum) in the same manner the way “Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan” was introduced to the country in 2001. With an aim to universalise elementary education in a time-bound manner and as mandated by the 86th Amendment of the Constitution which provisioned free and compulsory education to children between the ages of 6 to 14, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan had been launched.

The central government wants to implement the scheme in the same way so as to save it from facing roadblocks from the state governments. Yet, this would not be enough. Unless a robust infrastructure is built and budgetary allocation under sports category is increased, there is possibility the scheme would not take off.

Countries That Have Made Sports Compulsory in Schools

In countries like the US, Australia, Japan, China, Germany, France, Russia and Cuba, physical activities in schools are a must. In some of these countries, sports is an essential part of school education system; and in some others, parliamentary nods are still awaited. But in general, a narrative doing the rounds in these countries is that children who participate in outdoor or indoor games, excel academically too. Also, it is said that playing a sport keeps children out of troubles and inculcate in them leadership, teamwork and resilience values.

Conclusion

Even as some schools have made sports a compulsory subject, in practice it is not getting as much importance as it should have. Since the government has taken an initiative in making it compulsory, it is believed that a sporting culture will be developed. In the nation building process, sports and games will play a major role. After all, we should not forget that only through games and sports a healthy society can be built. Therefore, the government’s plan to make sports a mandatory part of school curriculum could be a game changer in days to come.