Look beyond classrooms to improve learning levels in State schools
Last week, Pratham, an NGO, released its 13th Annual Status of Education Report. The 2018 report shows that while there are small improvements, the crisis in Indian education, in terms of outcomes, continues.
The survey covered around 3.5 lakh households and 546,527 children aged three and 16 across 596 rural districts. The positive part of the report is that the proportion of children not enrolled in school has fallen below 3% for the first time ever in India. It stands at 2.8%. This improvement is seen across age groups and gender. In 2018, the proportion of girls in the 11 to 14 age group who were out of school moved up to 10.3% from a meagre 4.1% in 2006. As in every year, this data was reported widely in the media.
There is, however, one critical aspect of the report that has not got enough media attention: the infrastructure of sports and physical education in India’s rural schools, which ASER has reported for the first time.
“Physical education and sports, though an integral part of education policy documents, has always remained on the fringe and has not received much importance up until now. India has traditionally been a sports viewing country, and the proliferation of cable TV together with the different professional sports leagues that are now being played and telecast in India, has only accentuated this trend. While children are seen playing in all fields, grounds, and open-air spaces around the country, much of this play is organised by the children themselves. The culture of playing sports in an organised manner, on a large scale, has never existed in India,” writes Ranajit Bhattacharyya in a chapter ‘A Fitter Future’ in the report. “Lamentably, not much data exists on school physical education and sports in India. We do not know how many potential Sainas, Sindhus, and Himas exist in our country, leave alone what kind of facilities exist in the grassroots to produce them”.
School physical education trends captured in ASER 2018
Physical education period in timetable: Two thirds of the schools had a timetable with a physical education period. Top states included: Maharashtra (93%), Tamil Nadu (82%), Gujarat (72%), Kerala (83%), and Andhra Pradesh (78%).
Physical education teacher: Across all states, less than two out of 10 primary schools have a dedicated physical education teacher. Most often one of the subject teachers was reported to conduct the physical education period as well.
Availability of playground: A more positive finding is that across India, more than two thirds of the schools visited had a playground inside the school premises. 88% schools in Sikkim, 87% in Maharashtra, 86% in Tripura, 84% in Haryana, 83% in Himachal Pradesh, 82% in Gujarat, and 81% in Karnataka are the top states in this category.
Availability of sports equipment: In the case of sports equipment available inside schools, nationally, almost two -thirds of the schools visited seemed to fulfil this objective of Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan, an overarching programme for the school education sector extending from pre-school to Class 12, which was announced in the last Union budget.
Supervised physical education activity: Our volunteers did not see much supervised physical education activity at the time of their visit to government primary schools in the sampled villages. Nationally, some form of supervised physical activity was observed in about a quarter of the schools visited.
It is important to start talking about this data set because the links between physical activity and education is well established. World over, in most countries, physical education is an integral part of school education, with a consistent allocation in primary and lower secondary education in OECD countries: 9% of school time in primary and 8% in lower secondary.
“These countries, with higher GDPs, already have good sports infrastructure and facilities, and in recent times they have stepped up their efforts to promote physical education/sports in schools from the perspective of improving academic achievement,” adds Bhattacharyya.