Thursday, July 12, 2018

Expectations and Creativity


DON’T LET EXPECTATIONS KILL CREATIVE PASSIONS
As written in earlier article, Central Board of Education has taken many revolutionary steps in the recent past, for the benefit of students, focusing on their holistic development. It has laid special importance on sports and extra-curricular activities, considering them as an integral part of school life. While the policy makers are experimenting to enable the students flourish in all spheres of life and make an informed decision based on their interests and forte; the ground reality portrays a totally different scenario. For most of the parents, school is a place to acquire specific subject based knowledge and a means for their kids to become capable and qualified for a lucrative and main stream job opportunity in future.
Aspiring “secure and prosperous” lives for their children, parents turn towards coaching centres. I have stressed upon this matter numerous times that as soon as a child reaches class XI, he is enrolled in a coaching centre, in many a cases even before. The coaching institute becomes the pivot around which the life of the child revolves for the last two crucial years of schooling. Unfortunately, some parents choose options like dummy school thereby curbing the nurturing, prolific and lively social interaction of a child to the minimum. The students are sent to coaching centres to cram the same concepts that they had covered in school to score better and crack so called highly acclaimed competitive exam. In this rat race, parents often forget and even become indifferent to what the child wants. The passions of the child whether it is dance, art, music or sports, become mere “hobbies” to be avoided or sacrificed for the sake of competition and better marks.
I believe that kids are little bundles of exemplary spirit and talent. They amaze me with their talents in varied fields, every day, showcasing their passion and skills on the stage, in the art room, dance room, music room, class room, play grounds or in the auditorium. The stage becomes their means of expression. Through dance, drama, recitation, debate and extempore etc. they express themselves on a profound level. The same quiet, shy, lost child struggling in mathematics or the naughty one who seems to lack focus during history class becomes a completely different personality on stage; confident, focused and passionate. Recently, the students left the audience enraptured with a soulful recitation of “dohas and kavyas” from the Bhakti Kaal, during Hindi Recitation Competition.
It’s disheartening to accept that the students performing exceptionally in the extracurricular activities are still labelled as average and mediocre if they cannot do that good academically. Their merit is judged on the basis of marks and academic performance and if they fail to perform up to the mark, the first thing the parents do is to discourage their extracurricular activity. The reason I am discussing this issue is because some recent incidents have shaken me up to the core as I felt quite helpless as a teacher and principal. A student of the school who is an epitome of discipline and brilliance was taken away from the school as the parents felt that their child is “wasting” time while practicing one of the performing arts subject and taking part in competitions related to it, while when the child is needed to prepare for class XII exams/ competitive exam. I have seen this child on stage, giving extraordinary performance and receiving accolades in academic areas too because of excellent performance in that area also. But the devil of coaching centre once again played dirty due to which the moment a little dip in the child’s academic performance was observed, the parents decided to make the child leave regular school for “self-study”, so that coaching centre is attended more regularly. The child was forced to sacrifice the passion of performing arts. Ironically, a child who was loved by all the teachers had to leave the school so that the child could attend coaching centre and get into some good college.
I remember how excited the child used to be whenever a dance competition was won. Even the parents felt elated at such moments, and these moments occurred quite often, I must emphasize.  One could see the sense of pride and happiness on their faces. Every time the child performed on stage, there was divine look, in control of body and soul, confident and sublime. I wonder why the source of happiness of the child needed to be sacrificed for so called better do better future. All of a sudden the interest of the child and source of happiness and stress buster became a problem for the child and parent tagged it as a hindrance as it wasn’t considered a lucrative job option by them. Is it the sole purpose of school to help a child learn how to earn money through main stream options?
Another case which came to my knowledge is also equally important to be shared. The teachers noticed that another child of senior class remained quiet and indifferent to what was happening in the class. The parents were called and told about the same. As per the parents version the child had been like that from the childhood and now things have become serious because of the pressure of studies in the school and coaching centre. In this case the child’s nature was just opposite to the case discussed before. They also thought that it was better to let her attend coaching centre more regularly than the regular school. Both the children are the victim of circumstances and the ambitions of others.
I wondered that a quiet child was taken away from the friendly school environment and encouraged to continue in the mechanical and cut throat competitive and depressing environment of the coaching centre. Why couldn’t the parents understand that the child needed the company of friends and family and not that of a coaching class? Will the coaching centres ever be able to help the children deal with the pressure faced by them?
Here I need to ask few questions. Is it wrong on the part of some schools to encourage the children to take part in co-curricular and extracurricular activities? Are the schools used as dummy schools helping the children and the nation? There are schools which help children to be creative and pursue their passion. Many schools provide children the stage to explore self and be brave enough to dream beyond the set norms. Since ages the conflict between passions and expectations is on. Why can’t they be on one side? Why can’t the expectations of parents align with the passions of a dedicated child? Why can’t we realize that this conflict can and will kill a child’s uniqueness? As a result the child will become just another cog in the mechanical scheme of the world, detached from her/his passion and ultimately devoid of the spirit of being her/his self.
I can understand that parents might worry that if their child chooses a creative career path they will struggle to support themselves, and become the stereotypical “starving artist”. However, should the parents not worry if their child is not passionate about a conventional well-paying academic career and is still forced to pursue that? Won’t they end up feeling unhappy and unfulfilled in their work throughout their life?
“If your child is pursuing a more unconventional and creative career path, you can support them in following that dream too. Help them to find schools or courses where they can learn the skills they need to thrive in creative fields and encourage them to develop their art to its full potential. Help them to make connections with performing artists, painters, writers and other creative types that are actually making a living, so that they can learn from them. Stand up for your children when others say that their creative dreams are foolish and they will never make any money. With your support and their hard work and passion, your child can succeed and make their dream of a creative career a reality.”
`To conclude, I would just say this to the parents that we are here to guide our kids and bring them to the right path if they are distracted. But if they have their dreams sorted and know how to follow their heart with discipline and dedication; let’s just facilitate them. In such a case let’s just be “the wind beneath their wings” and avoid being the ones who “clip their wings”.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

THE PROBLEM OF BRAIN DRAIN AND HOW INDIA IS TACKLING IT



Recently, while welcoming the students to school after the summer break, the students of class XII raised the issue of Brain Drain during the assembly. This left me thinking that in spite of the fact that India is such a patriotic nation with people firmly attached to its roots; brain drain has always been a significant setback for us. How can you imagine a nation to grow and prosper if its people are ready to become an asset to a foreign country? Some people still often say that they would like to work in some other country. When probed for the reasons they accept that they are not happy with how the policies are implemented in India.

“Over the years, millions of young talented Indians from various disciplines have left their soil in search of better opportunities. This is what is termed as “Brain Drain” and policymakers have been grappling with this issue for a long time. It is well known that the consequences of brain drain are severe, especially for a developing economy like ours. It adversely affects the quality and quantity of human capital formation, which is the bedrock of modern economic development. A higher number of Indian students, professionals, doctors, and scientists are working abroad now than ever before. On the other hand, the money they are sending back to our country (as remittances) is declining. There is an urgent need to revisit the problem and find new and innovative solutions to reverse the trend quickly.”

The major reasons for brain drain are:

1.      The population of our country is 1.4 billion and granting job to the whole of the youth of this nation is next to impossible. Millions of engineers are graduating every year in India, so it’s nearly impossible to give a job to every engineer graduating. Jobs are not matching the growing population, and thousands of engineers remain unemployed, and they have no option but to fly to foreign countries as they welcome them with joy.

2.      One common answer we get is that India did not have the right opportunities for their specialization. It’s true for technical PhD holders who need employment from research institutes which might not have been prevalent in India with quality as required.

3.      But what about entrepreneurs? They had a market of 0.7 billion people, something that nobody would like to ignore. Instead of going to a foreign land and toiling hard to become entrepreneurs, why did they not remain in India and do the same here? After all, India being a developing nation could have provided them a chance to experiment as well as capture market share. It is easy to say that they were greedy, did not care for our country and flee to the US for greener pastures. But the real reason lies in the political & economic system.

4.      And not to forget the sheer amount of running/lobbying one had to do to get hundreds of approvals to start a business in the license raj era. Such policies led to corruption in the system which forced honest businessmen to flee the country.

5.      Another reason why India’s young, skilled labour force leaves is in search of better rewards for their effort and talent. When seen in the context of the Purchasing Power Parity (PPP), average wages for a person in the US is more than six times of his Indian counterpart in the academia, more than three times in management and more than double in the IT sector.

6.      Are wages the only major reason why youngsters migrate abroad? The simple answer is no. Quality of higher education in India is one of the other factors which pushes brain drain. India, having come a long way in almost ensuring every kid goes to primary school, lags behind the developed world in terms of quality higher education.

Here, I want to point out that the roots of this problem lies deep within the system and it’s very complications. We are unable to provide basic facilities at a very basic level. Hence, people move from villages to small towns looking for better opportunities. The ones who do good, move to metros and from there they look forward to moving out of the country. With the human resource shifting to the cities, villages continue to lag behind.
One recent policy decision by a state government is perfect example how people are pushed to move out of their native olace. The Government of Rajasthan implemented the policy of giving admission on the basis of percentile for higher education. The reason was that they wanted to normalize the marks as they thought that students from CBSE affiliated schools get more marks than students from RBSEaffiliated schools. As a result, enrollment of CBSE students in colleges reduced drastically. They were forced to go out of the state for higher education. Once this happens, most students do not come back to their roots. This is an example of how policies force people to leave their roots.
To overcome this situation certain number of seats should be reserved as state quota. This is a common practice in many state universities and I feel that there is nothing wrong in that.

There is always a solution:

All this does not mean that the problem of brain drain cannot be curbed. We need to provide the youth of our nation with better opportunities. With the growing start up trend we can hope that the young entrepreneurs are here to stay.

Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences claimed that Over 1,000 Indian scientists working abroad have returned to India in the last two-three years. Meanwhile, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) is all set to roll out a scheme to attract scientists from abroad on a longer term basis. The program, called Visiting Advanced Joint Research (VAJRA) Faculty Scheme, will offer accomplished NRI scientists the opportunity to undertake research in India for a maximum period of three months every year, while granting them the status of adjunct faculty in an Indian institution round the year.

Industry in India is also contributing support in establishing research laboratories, creating collaborative projects between academics and students, and sponsoring research projects. IIT Kharagpur has attracted significant funds from a leading corporation to carry out advanced research in power technology. 

The Indian government launched a prime minister’s fellowship scheme for doctoral research with industry partnership last year for science, technology, engineering, agriculture, and medicine. Under the scheme, 100 fellowships will be given to selected candidates working on research projects jointly with industry.

When it comes to easing out policies and regulations to promote small scale and large scale business, our prime minister has taken many commendable steps but there is still a long way to go.

Ultimately, I would like to say that preventing brain drain and keeping your country’s collective human asset intact rests on our culture and the value we place on people engaging in these types of behaviors. By supporting our youth’s efforts to share their insights, we’ll keep all the knowledge where it belongs and ensure that your youth is able to pick up the torch and run with it.

Friday, July 6, 2018

You Do Not Need Privilege To Dream Big



I feel fortunate being in the company of thousands of wonderful children and hundreds of teachers every day. Children, who aspire, dream, try, fail, achieve and excel, and teachers who give their best to help these kids, realize and achieve their goals. Each child is an individual full of dreams. I should mention that parents are also playing their part in shaping these individuals. They are doing their best to stand by their kids through thick and thin. We also teach our kids a lot of values, we ask them to be positive and count their blessings.
Amidst all this we often forget to remind them that they are privileged. Yes, it is indeed a privilege to able to attend a school. From the clean water they drink to the very fact that they have clean water to take a shower every day, is a privilege. With all these facilities being provided to them, kids often confine their world to themselves. They become indifferent to the fact that they are a part of a community, a society and a nation; a nation that was built by legends who put service before self, and who believed in ‘giving back’. “I believe giving back is one of the greatest life lessons we can teach our children: that the world isn't all about them and that, through our actions, people will really discover what kind of a person we truly are.”
We often read about various NGOs working for the upliftment of the underprivileged and how these children provide us an opportunity to give back to society. Can you imagine that some of these underprivileged kids want to give back so much more to their country? The patriotism and humility that we as teachers and parents try to find in our kids, flows in the veins of these deprived little souls, in abundance.
Let me now share with you my ‘privilege’ of getting acquainted with two little kids who dream big in spite of their deprived conditions and most importantly, they realize that they are a part of this country and thereby have certain sense of responsibility towards it. Four years ago, we happened to meet a little girl, about 8-9 years old. She belongs to a very poor family in the nearby village. She lives with her father, mother and three siblings in a hut. She is suffering from a severe medical condition and her physical and mental growth is not appropriate. She also suffers from a severe speech defect. Her father is a daily wage earner and their economic condition is miserable. Her innocence and honesty moved us when we first met her and now we make sure that we visit her at least once a year and provide her and family with few basic necessities. This girl is lively and amiable. She welcomes us every time with a smile on her face. Due to our frequent visits, kids from the neighbouring huts gather around her and focus on the food packets and other stuff we give her. Interestingly, she simply passes them to her mother and gets engrossed in playing a perfect host.
Recently, when we were on the way to visit her, we stopped at a shop in the village to purchase the necessities for her family. A little boy, who studies in class VI, was helping the shopkeeper. He told us that he aspires to become a CBI officer. His charming and zealous personality instantly attracted our attention and soon we were lost listening to the story of his life. He told us that his father is an alcoholic and often beats him. He lost his mother few years ago and the generous shopkeeper is paying for his education. This promising kid with big dreams in his eyes assured us that he has everything ‘sorted’. He will finish his education from the village school and then apply for college and later he will pass certain competitive exams and work for CBI. Here, his face became solemn for a few seconds as he was lost in deep thoughts, “I know I will have to “waste” a lot of money for my education but I will have to be what I have decided, it is important.” (“In sab me bohot paisa bigrega pr mjhe toh CBI me jana hi h.”). Enraptured by his spirit and sincerity towards his cause I asked, “Why? Why is it so important for you to work for CBI? He smiled and said, “Saheb, it is my responsibility to do something for the country, isn’t it?”
This made me wonder about the kids back in the school. Do they have such aspirations? Aspirations that prioritize the country they live in and parents who dedicate their lives to them. Then, something beautiful happened. We got a glimpse of the calibre of this confident ‘future CBI officer’. After he handed over the items to us, he started doing the calculation. To our surprise he did all the calculation without using a pen or a calculator. Considering that he is just a child, we insisted the shopkeeper to do the calculation again. The shopkeeper pointed out that we had given 25 rupees more than the amount as the kid calculated it wrong. The child said with confidence that he was pretty sure about his calculation. The boy insisted that we should visit him again when we return. We told him it would be very tiring and we would not have the strength (“Beta, himmat hogi toh ayenge”).  To which he said, “Saheb, Himmat kroge toh himmat aa hi jayegi.” (Please try to come; you can do anything if you try). Anyway, we smiled at this childish assertion and left for the little girl’s house. At the girl’s house we were welcomed by her cheerful face and she tried to express a lot with the little words she could manage.
We decided to meet this boy again as we returned, just to bid him goodbye and have some water as we did not want to disappoint him. When he saw us he happily came running to us and served us water. With a proud smile on his face he said at once, “Saheb, my calculation was correct, you paid 25 rupees less. The shopkeeper accepted the same as he handed over the new bill accepting that the calculation he made on the calculator turned out to be faulty. We were so impressed with this little boy. My good friend who accompanied me on this visit proposed that we should bring him to the city and enroll him in a good school with hostel facility, for his further education. All of a sudden a thought stopped me. I realized that he has seen the hard life; he has seen that everything in life comes with a price. Nothing was ever handed over to him for free. Providing him with a comfortable life, will I not be taking away the most significant lesson life has taught him at such a tender age? The lesson that, ‘nothing can substitute hard work and hardships are a part of life.’ Back in the hostel, amidst all the facilities, he might forget his purpose, I feared.
I appreciated him and bade goodbye. I knew, this hard work will inspire him and take him to his goal. The austere life he is living will teach him that nothing in life should be taken for granted. With this I wondered about the kids back at school, will they ever realize how privileged they are? Will they ever learn that the blessings they don’t count are a farfetched dream for the little boy and the handicapped girl? But I know that adversities bring out the best of one’s abilities and I will spread their stories as an inspiration and encourage other kids to dream big and not to let the hurdles perturb them.
I ask the parents and teachers to make sure that the students get to know about the underprivileged so that they can learn empathy and start appreciating the blessings that the Almighty has bestowed upon them; encourage them to dream and eliminate all the excuses because when you aspire for something with all your heart, adversity becomes your friend.
A.P.J Abdul Kalam once said addressing the slum children of Mumbai, "My teacher once explained on the blackboard how a bird flies... I instantly got attracted to it and I decided to make something fly one day. Every child must have some great aim before the age of 15, every child."


Monday, June 18, 2018

Give Children The Best Of Both Worlds


A school may have a wonderful curriculum policy and a sophisticated approach to assessment, but a child’s holistic development depends on effective teaching and balanced parenting.
A child’s world revolves around his parents and teachers. Together they make, shape and guide him/her. Indeed, they mean the world to the kids.
You Your Child and School” by Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica discusses effective teaching and parenting in a comprehensive manner. This encouraged me to share its interesting insights with all my readers.
BEING TEACHERS…
Robinson describes teachers as the “source” of the teaching and learning process. Teaching basically includes instructing and explaining. But a teacher’s role is not confined to it. “There is more to education than proportional knowledge.” With this comprehensive insight Robinson explicitly discusses “The Roles of Teachers”. According to him teachers have four major roles to play:
1.    ENABLE: Robinson compares kids with plants and seeds and teachers as farmers and gardeners. “Gardeners don’t make the plants grow. They don’t attach the roots and paint the leaves. The plants grow themselves. The role of gardeners is to provide the best conditions for that to happen.” Similarly, children do the learning themselves and the role of teachers is to create the best conditions and provide them with opportunities to thrive. “Great teaching is- knowing what works best here and now and on this day.”

2.    ENGAGE: Curiosity and excitement are elements of utmost importance for effective learning. Sarah M Fine argues that the key to deep engagement in high school classrooms is “intellectual playfulness”.  Intellectual risk taking and open ended assignments is one such way to keep students consistently engaged, looking forward to class and work hard without getting disinterested. Hereby, teachers become friends and not hard task masters. She emphasizes that this doesn’t at all mean that the student can just sit and expect that the teacher should make all the effort to take care of his/her interest in the class.
3.    EMPOWER: “Great teachers empower students in two ways. They cultivate task confidence by developing students’ abilities in their own areas of expertise. They cultivate self confidence by working together as a learning community to develop students’ abilities in all kinds of competencies.” Thereby students become independent learners by acquiring knowledge and skills to experiment, ask questions and develop their skills in critical and creative thinking.
4.    EXPECT: “Great teachers have high expectations for their students and it is hard to overestimate the effect it can have on achievement.” A teacher’s encouragement, appreciation and expectation can work wonders.
All these roles can be deftly played by a person who has a natural passion for teaching and an aptitude for it, therefore successful education system like that of Finland doesn’t focus on recruiting people with highest academic qualification. It instead encourages and trains those who have a natural flair for teaching. “Significantly, TFA (Teach for America) has come to the same conclusion that great teaching is not all about academic qualifications. It’s about passion and expertise in helping others to learn. TFA studies its teachers carefully and realized that the teachers who helped their students most have some common characteristics:
·      They are constantly reinventing their classrooms and evaluating their own progress with the students.
·      They work hard at keeping their classrooms inclusive and at engaging parents in what is going on in class.
·      They keep a strong level of focus on outcomes.
·      They are unusually well prepared both on daily level and on a yearlong level by working backward from what they hope to accomplish.
·      They are relentless in spite of school and community condition.
Robinson also shared an extensive survey of teaching styles conducted by Dr. Anthony Grasha. These styles are as follows:
1.    Expert: Teachers following this style have high level of subject knowledge. They use knowledge as a vehicle and share their mastery of their subject. The disadvantage of this technique is that this level of expertise sometimes prevents the teacher from understanding the challenges that students face.
2.    Formal Authority: The teachers who execute formal authority project gravitas and set out a firm classroom approach in the classroom. While the classroom goals in this case are often focused and clear cut there is a tendency towards rigidity which doesn’t work out with every student.
3.    Personal Model: Teachers using this style tend to offer lots of examples from his/her own life. He/She shows how to do something with effective techniques and encouragement. Although it sounds very effective, it could be problematic with students who don’t learn with those techniques.
4.    Facilitator: This teaching style concentrates on helping students become independent thinkers by guiding them towards discovery. They serve as consultant rather than instructor and cater to students as individuals. Yet again not all students can cope up with this approach.
5.    Delegator: Under this style students are encouraged to work autonomously, acting as a resource where necessary. Grasha feels that this hastens students’ development as independent learners. But this style can only be effective for higher order thinking students.
An ideal teaching approach would be a blend of all these styles.
BEING PARENTS…
After discussing the roles of teachers and various teaching styles Robinson goes on to elaborate upon various parenting styles. According to him being a parent can be the most enriching experience but it needs a lot of patience and a sense of balance. Robinson has comprehensively discussed four major parenting styles in the chapter “Finding Your Parenting Style”:
1.    Authoritarian: Authoritarian parents present a set of rules that their children have to follow, without offering any explanation about why the rules exist. They believe in harsh punishments and do not welcome questioning. Research suggests that the children under this parental regime tend to be good at what they do but they also tend to be unhappy and have problems socializing.
2.    Authoritative: Authoritative parents have rules for their children as well but they are more willing to explain the reason behind them. When a child breaks a rule, it is seen as a time for discussion and not punishment. The children of these parents tend to be the happiest and most social, while standing a good chance at success at what they do.
3.   Permissive: Permissive parents tend to be very lenient and often treat their children as friends. They prioritize nurturing and minimize consequences. Children of these parents have problems with authority outside the home.
4.    Uninvolved: Uninvolved parents abstain from parenting as much as they can. They just make sure that their child has food and shelter and that is the end of it. Children of these parents have issues with self-control, self-esteem and happiness.
At the end of this description Robinson remarks that at the far end of the parenting spectrum are the “so called helicopter parents”. He says, “They are obsessively protective and never let their child get hurt, complete their homework, rush to the school to complain at the first sign of any action by teachers or other students that might upset their self-esteem.” I have already discussed the disadvantages of this parenting style in one of my articles. When children are not given the space to struggle they don’t learn to solve their problems and end up being anxious and depressed in case of any failure. Therefore, ideal parenting style will have to be a blend of the first three styles discussed with a blend of free-range parenting as I have discussed in one of my articles.
Of course, there cannot be a “perfect” way of teaching and parenting. As teachers and parents we will have to keep exploring various approaches to find the best way. I totally agree with Robinson as he concludes that parenting and teaching styles need to be flexible for “your children need you for different things at different points in their lives”.

“At the end of the day, the most overwhelming key to a child's success is the positive involvement of parents and teachers.” 

Friday, June 8, 2018

Dirt Is Good

LET THE KIDS PLAY AND THRIVE ON THEIR OWN
CBSE has directed all its schools to reserve one period daily from 2018-19 academic session for physical education for Std. IX-XII, because it wants to ‘mainstream’ the subject for holistic development of students. The Health and Physical Education (HPE) program will be a mandatory for all schools and CBSE will be releasing details about the curriculum in the near future. The board’s chairperson wrote to schools that, “CBSE has decided to mainstream HPE with the aim of holistic development of the child, leading to a well-balanced individual in all walks of life”. The letter added that the aim of mainstreaming HPE is also to enable the students to attain an optimum state of health. (Source TOI)
Although this step is hailed by Principals everywhere but the question remains that where is the time in the timetable to accommodate HPE? It also poses a challenge for CBSE schools that have integrated coaching tie-ups in Std XI and XII. Since majority of science stream students are focused on preparing for competitive exams, apart from boards, time is at a premium. A principal, said, “I think the HPE will be neglected big time by schools in Std XI and XII. Students are running a tight schedule by running between school, coaching classes and home.” Another principal who did not wish to be identified, said, “It’s a record now with CBSE that they start and stop things without any warning. Things that should be given at least a year, are done at the snap of the finger, as the groundwork is anyway going to be done by schools.” She mentioned that the announcement of reverting to traditional board exam was a sudden decision, followed by scrapping of options in English subject for Std. IX and X. (Source TOI)
Well of course every decision meets critical speculation and it takes time and efforts for its effective implementation. But the silver lining is the fact that an educational board has realized that “a healthy mind can only reside in a healthy body”. Competitive exams and the urge to get into much coveted colleges for a better future still remains the utmost desire of students and parents but as a Director and Principal I understand that school is not only about making the kids capable of establishing a good financial base for themselves in future. An educational institute focuses on ensuring the holistic development of the students. As I have discussed in one of my previous articles that sports are the way of life and physical fitness is the base of good mental health, this topic is of great interest to me.
Recently, I have been reading “You Your Child and School” by Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica. They have dedicated a part of it on “Raising Them Strong”. In this chapter they comprehensively talk about the pressure and stress the kids face in the world of digital culture and social media, how excessive use of technology has badly affected the mental health of the kids and how the lack of physical activity is dragging them towards the negativities of the world. Fortunately, Robinson and Aronica suggest that the solution to all this problems is “Letting Them Play”. Before discussing this section Robinson emphasizes on the importance of sleep. He suggests that one of the best steps one can take for their children’s health and well being is to make sure they have not just the amount but also the quality of sleep they need. Once good sleep is ensured it’s important to get our children on their feet and moving. “Your children aren’t detached heads that float through your living room on occasion. They have bodies for a reason. It is generally recommended that young people should have about one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. We are embodied creatures, and the mind-body thing really is a package deal. Too many people neglect or misunderstand this relationship and seem to assume that their body is just a way of getting around and that the shape we are in has little to do with how we think and feel. In reality, the relationship is critical and inseparable.”
John J. Ratey, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, in his book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and Brain, says, “The real reason we feel so good when we get our blood pumping is that it makes the brain function at its best than what it does for the body. In the roots of our biology, neuroscientists have found the signs of our body’s influence on the mind. It turns out that moving our muscles produces proteins that travel through the bloodstream and into the brain, where they play pivotal roles in the mechanisms of our highest thought processes.”
In chapter three “Know Your Child” Robinson mentions that our children are built to move, run, get dirty, collaborate and most importantly, play together. Sadly, they seem to that much less now. Playing is now confined to indoor structured games rather than something that happens outside in nature. Therefore, they get fewer opportunities for free, self-directed outdoor play. They also spend less time playing outside because of genuine parental fears. They are being over supervised and instructed during their play time. Is this ‘playing’? No, “Play is the primary way that children learn to understand and experience the world around them. Real play is unsupervised and self initiated. Unilever’s Dirt Is Good (DIG) campaign is rooted in the belief that children benefit enormously from enjoying unstructured, active and imaginative play as children have always done. In March 2016, Dirt Is Good launched a campaign called Free the Kids. The project team found out that on an average children spend less than one hour a day playing outdoor games. Shockingly, that is less than half the time outdoors each day that international law requires for maximum security prisoners. Therefore, The International Advisory Board for DIG lists six characteristics of real play:
·      Play is intrinsically motivated where means is more important than the ends
·      Real play is freely chosen, it is a state of mind.
·      Play is pleasurable
·      Play is nonliteral, it accommodated child’s interests and imaginations
·      Play is actively engaging
·      Play has no external rules
The reason I have mentioned these characteristics here is that CBSE will have to keep in mind that HPE doesn’t become another theoretical program with comprehensively laid out instructions and minimum practical benefits.
Under the topic ‘Why does play matter?’, Robinson explains that when children create their own games and rules it significantly enhances their development in all the ways that are essential for a happy childhood and for becoming independent adults. “There are powerful links between play and the physical development of healthy bodies. Active play has powerful effects on children’s cognitive, emotional and social development. When they are physically and emotionally fit they make better social relationships. In all of these ways, we can conclude that active play in childhood isn’t just important; it’s essential to becoming a happy and successful person in later life too. Considering all these points this move by CBSE can be considered revolutionary but its success will depend upon effective implementation.
Robinson says that even in this digital education culture children and teachers have genuine appetite to get out of the classroom and into the wider world that surrounds them. “One example is the runaway success of Outdoor Classroom Day. On this day, schools from every part of the globe take children outdoors to play and learn. Teachers report that children’s behaviour improves and individuals who feel inhibited by the curriculum thrive in the outdoor environment.” Kurt Hahn also suggests four antidotes to the declines of modern youth i.e., fitness training, expeditions, practical projects and rescue services.
“Safety is important but certain manageable levels of risk helps them deal with adversity, help them learn how to get up after scraping their knees.” Thriving mental health can only be ensured with physical fitness and taking measured risks. I hope the initiative taken by CBSE will work in this direction ensuring better mental and physical heath of students in future. 
In the end, I would conclude with this request to all the parents and guardians, “let your kids sleep, dream, get out, play, fall, fail, get up, get going and fly.” Let them be themselves.