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Sports Education in India

–By Poulomi Kundu

Sports Education in Curriculum: Does including Sports as a subject leverage its actual potential in moulding young minds?  

Traditionally, sports have never been an integral part of Indian educational system. Just having Physical Education (PE) classes in schools without any comprehensive and inclusive curriculum framework does not address the needs of children of different ages and capabilities.

A comprehensive sports education policy is necessary

According to the government’s Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey in October 2019, in India almost 1 in 10 children, between 5-9 years were found to be pre-diabetic and 1% were diabetic. About 5% of children and adolescents, between 5-19 years, were overweight. Thus the fact concludes that a healthy lifestyle is the need of this hour. 

The first basic learning that sport teaches is the importance of a fit body that further leads to development of focus and concentration. Here comes the importance of introducing a perfect framework of sport in school. The basis of sports education should start from school that can inculcate the benefits of a healthy lifestyle in children and their parents.

As life has become more and more stressful, sports teach stress management and the art of taking ownership of success as well as failure. The life skills of self motivation, determination and leadership are well-laid out by sports. Through a planned training process, sports can instil the qualities of camaraderie and teamwork that automatically teach a child management strategies. So in a nutshell we can infer that sport is one thing that builds in fitness, strength, stamina, aptitude, adaptability, fearlessness and independence- all those specific qualities needed for a person to be successful in any field. 

Change in mindset 

Our traditional society did not see sport as a favourable profession because of its volatile outcome.  Understanding the importance of sports in the betterment of students’ overall growth has been a very recent observation among Indian parents. This is probably due to some remarkable achievements of Indian sportspersons in different disciplines. Indian sportspeople are far more competitive and confident in the global arena in recent times, and that has immensely helped in changing the mindset of parents.  

Parents are now concerned about the holistic development of their children. It is a development that can be rooted from school. But while we discuss grassroot-level developments, we never talk about a strong curriculum for sports. Here comes the role of the government; that remains the key. A massive support from the government is necessary for making sports accessible to everyone.

Governmental steps

In 1984, a National Sports Policy was formulated for the first time in India to raise the standard of sports in the country. However, the goals and objectives in the Policy were not substantially laid. 

In 2011, the Central Government, in conjunction with the State Governments, the Olympic Association (IOA) and the National Sports Federations enhanced the existing Policy by ‘broad basing’ in order to reach rural areas, remote areas, and youth and sports clubs. Simultaneously, Sports and Physical Education (SPE) was integrated with the educational curriculum, making it a compulsory subject of learning up to the Secondary School level.

This policy led to a positive response among schools and students and they became more cognizant of the benefits of sports in education. But the need sustained as a concrete framework still did not exist. 

Khelo India Scheme   

In 2017, the national government introduced the Khelo India Scheme with a major objective to support India’s youth with funds, high-quality training and top-notch infrastructure in order to get international sporting exposure. The scheme also aims to develop, popularise and encourage participation in those sports that do not receive enough attention.

Khelo India Scheme was started with a total budget allocation of Rs. 1756 crore. In the 1st Khelo India Youth Games 2018, students from selected schools below the age of 17 years competed for 209 gold medals across 16 sports. In individual sports, top 8 sportsperson from the School Games Federation of India’s National School Games, 4 nominations from Federation, 1 from Central Board of Secondary Education, 1 from the host state and 2 wild card entries are selected. In team sports, the top 4 from the National School Games, 2 nominations by the Federation, 1 from the host State and 1 from the organising committee are selected. 

In the 2020 edition of the Games, close to 6,800 athletes from 37 states and union territories competed across 20 sports disciplines. The Olympic-like atmosphere is an ideal setting for the bright young talents to get an exposure that is truly international. The Khelo India Youth Games has been a successful attempt to highlight the present-changed sports scenario of India. 

But a complete framework for sports education was still missing from the scenario. Under the New Education Policy of 2020, sport is included as an integral part of the curriculum where it should not be further treated as an extracurricular activity but has to be accepted as a part of the overall education system.

Inclusion of sport in the New Education Policy can become successful only when it would be ensured that everyone in school plays sport compulsorily. But that should be in such a way that everyone falls in love and follows it passionately to a certain extent. 

The formative years of a student always need a teacher who elaborately guides him. That should be for sports too. There should also be an extensive collaboration between schools, especially government schools, and sports academies for proper facilities, infrastructure and trained coaches. In remote areas, if academies are not available at vicinity, then the government should come up with their own sports centres or can appoint emerging sports management companies to enhance sporting facilities in those areas. Nelson Mandela once addressed a group of young students by saying that there were future doctors, lawyers, accountants and other professionals but all of them could actually become what they are once they use the life skills and attitudes learnt from playing sports in school. Thus it is a full-proven fact that sports need to be at equal footing as any academic subject. The underlying message is that  while it is a duty of the government to develop a broad level framework, the implementation is the responsibility of school management. This implementation is perfectly aligned with the improvement of overall progress of sport in our country.

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Author Bio

Poulomi Kundu started her career in 2000 as a freelance journalist in Hindustan Times. After her post- graduation, Poulomi joined the leading television production house of eastern India, Rainbow Productions. She was a journalist in Khas Khobor, a Bengali news magazine programme in Doordarshan and also headed the post production department of another programme, Khas Kolkata.

She has made a film on the Watershed Management Programmes of West Bengal, a documentary on ‘Bhalopahad’– a registered society that works for the social upliftment and has also directed a short docu-feature ‘Passion’ that is online on youtube platform ‘Frames I’. She directed a 10-minute documentary on 10 Years of Pickleball in India that is produced by AIPA. As an ardent sports lover, she runs ‘SPORTSAVOUR’. It is an online sports portal that serves sports with the tagline ‘For the indigenous, unconventional, unknown’.

Published by The Delek Archives

This project intends to archive instances of identity and religion-based discrimination in schools. It will map policies, surveys, curriculum evaluation and self-reflections; with a larger goal to providing a vision for justice, equity and inclusivity in school education.

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