Published: 29th November 2019
Get playing: All school students in TN to compulsorily spend one hour on physical activities
While several paediatricians all over the state have positively welcomed the move, many parents and teachers are worried about how the new rule is going to be implemented properly
Surely no one would take a stand against the proverb - "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy". But the how, when and why implications of a government circular harking back to the proverb have ruffled feathers of some teachers even as paediatricians are elated over the development.
According to a circular issued by the School Education Department on Thursday, all students will spend one hour-- 15 minutes before the morning assembly and 45 minutes after school hours-- on physical activities daily. The announcement comes a day after School Education Minister KA Sengottaiyan tweeted on the initiative and urged all Chief Educational Officers to take the idea forward.
The move is aimed at promoting fitness and wellness among students in addition to building their personality, teamwork and leadership skills, added the circular.
Several paediatricians have welcomed the initiative. "Children used to play on the streets a decade ago. They had peer groups and that is completely missing today. Outdoor games develop companionship, competitiveness, team spirit and lead to a healthy mind. Happy hormones like endorphins are secreted during physical activity. Adolescents have a lot of aggression, which is spent during physical activity. Lack of exercise leads to an unhealthy mind and pent up aggression, which lead to anxiety and depression," said Dr K Ramakrishnan, Director of Athma Hospitals in Tiruchy.
More than 80 per cent of students aged 11 to 17 worldwide are physically inactive, according to a WHO study released last week. Although India fares better than the global average, it is still an alarming 73.9 per cent. In India, three out of four children do not get the WHO-recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity. Doctors say this lack of physical activity leads to obesity, dyslipidemia (high cholesterol), fatty liver and stunted growth among boys and early menarche, irregular periods and hypothyroidism among girls.
Dr Mythily, Head of Paediatrics in Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Government Hospital in Tiruchy, said that the focus was only on studies in schools today. "Children are addicted to mobiles and TV. This causes a whole range of health problems. Compulsory exercise in schools would have an assured positive outcome in children's health."
With all its positive pay-offs, the move has also left many school teachers and parents at sea over its implementation.
"If we allow students to play for 15 minutes just before assembly, they will find it very difficult to concentrate in classes later," said J Sharmila, a class 5 science teacher from a private school in Chennai. "Many schools close by 3 pm, when it is still sunny. It will be difficult to implement it on a daily basis," she added.
K Maran, a mathematics teacher said that students from classes 10, 11 and 12 will not be able to engage in physical activity after school hours as they have special classes to prepare for public exams. "Pulling out these students from special classes to do physical activity may severely affect their exam performance," he said.
Another hurdle is the lack of space to play, says PK Ilamaran, leader of Tamil Nadu Government Teachers Association. "Majority of the schools do not have playgrounds. So where will the students play? The government should also employ more teachers to carry out these additional duties," he urged.
Schools are also concerned over who would lead the physical activity as many schools lack qualified physical education (PE) teachers. To execute this activity for about 1,000 students, at least three PE teachers are needed. Many private schools have only one teacher, complained a parent.