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The importance of PE for India’s children

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The importance of PE for India’s children

Structured physical education (PE) must be made an integral part of school curriculums in India. For such a young and socio-economically diverse population, PE through schools can become a powerful holistic development tool for India’s children.

Most schools in India have failed to integrate structured physical education (PE) into the school’s curriculum. The focus is on mainstream subjects, as schools fail to see how a structured PE curriculum can add to the development of young children, by aiding in their physical, mental, emotional and social growth. With 29.5% of India’s population under 14 years old (Indian Census, 2011), PE must be utilised as an effective tool for the holistic development of India’s children, from diverse socio-economic backgrounds.

The obvious benefit of PE, of keeping children fit, active and healthy, is particularly important for children living in urban India, from stronger economic backgrounds, where obesity has become a major issue. A study by Misra et al in 2011 concluded that “15 million children (8-18 year) residing in Indian cities are overweight”. Moreover, regular PE promotes a culture of lifelong physical activity, important in ensuring that future generations stay fit and healthy.

PE also promotes mental health, providing motivation and fighting depression, while assisting in the emotional development of children. India’s education system, unfortunately, revolves around a fiercely competitive exam culture, putting enormous pressure on students. The Lancet study in 2012 revealed that suicide rates in India are highest among the 15-29 age group, whereas the National Crime Records Bureau in 2011 showed that failure in examinations is the second likeliest cause of suicides among children in India. PE can help children to deal constructively with this competitive environment that is prevalent in Indian society.

Finally, PE ensures the social growth of children, by providing self-confidence, promoting leadership, teaching teamwork and encouraging inclusion and camaraderie. These values are hard to learn through textbooks, but can be taught practically and enjoyably through PE. Children living in rural India, from weaker economic backgrounds, and in particular girls, are marginalised groups who receive limited exposure and opportunities, and will greatly benefit from the social benefits of PE.

It is important that the various stakeholders of schools, including management, teachers, parents, students and the education ministry recognise the role that PE can play in the development of children, and prepare a roadmap to introduce structured PE programmes in schools across India.

[This article has been edited by the Operating Team]

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Author

Suheil F. Tandon

Published

Friday, June 26, 2015 - 00:00

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