By T S Sudhir
In my school in Delhi, we used to have a Physical Training (PT) teacher called Manchanda. Surprisingly we never knew his first name. He was always Manchanda Sir, a big hefty man, not necessarily the fittest man around, as he perhaps should have been.
As I look back now, I remember him more for the way he was used by the Principal and other teachers to scare the students. A class alloted to Manchanda Sir would invariably be hijacked by any other teacher who would want to finish his or her syllabus. Or it would mean a stroll in the ground, gossiping or at best a game of volleyball. And his everyday job was to ensure everyone was on time for the morning assembly and to ensure the students boarded the school bus in a queue in the afternoon.
In a nutshell, PT class meant a free period. And it has been the same down the years in most schools in the country. But now something interesting and positive is happening in Andhra Pradesh, which I think merits attention. The state’s 19000 physical education teachers (11000 in govt schools and 8000 in private) have come together to implement a syllabus for students so that the PT class does not remain a Manchanda Sir kind of affair, for our gen-next.
UNICEF set the ball rolling by supporting a pilot project in ten schools in Medak district in 2008-09 to introduce physical education in primary schools. British Council then stepped in, to develop a set of Physical education cards for classes 1 to 4. These cards focus on development of skills in young children in areas of motor movement, social skills and team work.
The Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh (SAAP), which hitherto was seen only as a custodian and maintenance incharge of stadia in the state, sensed an opportunity to make a difference to the way sports as a subject is perceived in schools and worked out a strategy wherein four designated physical education periods would take place in a week and over a period of time, physical education would be a subject of academic evaluation.
In fact, over the last couple of months, some 40 physical education teachers have sat together and prepared a detailed syllabus on what should be taught in what class. And armed with that, SAAP has now suggested to the education department to introduce 10 games into the school curriculum from class 6 to the class 9. These include volleyball, boxing, athletics, archery, weightlifting, kabaddi, football, hockey, taekwando and kho-kho.
Since creating infrastructure for every game is next to impossible in our schools where having access to even an open space is a luxury, the educational institutions will be asked to choose atleast two games. One individual game and another team game.
What this would entail is first and foremost, a change in the mindset of the teachers, parents and the students that PT class is not a free period. My friend, Anand Datla, who works in an IT major in Bangalore and is a major sports enthusiast, always speaks about how sports is all about building character. “It teaches you to savour a victory, to feel the pain and the hurt of a loss, the importance of team spirit, even when you have as team mates who you may not necessarily get along with.”
Though SAAP wanted to introduce it into the curriculum in 2009-10, it is yet to receive the formal approval by the Education department. This despite the school education minister okaying it. Once it gets the green signal from the mandarins of the education department, who unfortunately see this as an interference in `their’ affairs by the sports authorities, it will mean providing kits to the schools and orientation of all physical education teachers.
Given the problem of obesity and lethargy in urban kids in particular, sports as a compulsory subject, I think, is a great idea. Time perhaps to get this 21st century generation, which equates games to the world of computer games, hooked off those mean, wild-sounding machines. And let our Manchanda Sirs do much more than mere `Stand at ease and Attention’.
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