Ajay Maken unveils national programme

To inculcate awareness of physical fitness and encourage a sports culture that would further improve India’s medal tally at international competitions, the Centre on Thursday unveiled a national programme for schoolchildren.

In addition to giving a more physically fit student additional weightage in academic performance, the programme will award children by grading them with stars — an initiative started in 1959 but discontinued. It also proposes to institute six national awards for the best performing State, district and school in physical fitness.

The Exposure Draft on National Physical Fitness Programme, released by Sports Minister Ajay Maken, aims at putting in place a system to assess a child’s physical fitness from Class V onwards. It will entail formulation of a scientific programme and criteria to first motivate all school-going children of both sexes to be physically fit and concurrently evaluate their fitness.

Motivational, not coercive

“The scheme needs to be motivational rather than being coercive and to obtain this, the achievement of fitness by a child has to be rewarded in a manner similar to a reward for academic achievements,” Mr. Maken said.

Fitness evaluation will have six components: cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, explosive strength (jumping) and body composition (percentage of body fat). Fitness tests will be executed at least twice a year — in June and January — which will provide an idea of the status as well as level of improvement of the student’s fitness during an academic session.

Quoting a World Health Organisation report, Mr. Maken said one out of three Indians would be either a coronary patient or diabetic by 2030. This projected population at risk would necessarily be school-going children at present. Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Haryana did have physical fitness programmes, but the percentage fulfilling the criteria of physically fit children remained low, particularly once they moved to higher classes, where the focus is more on academics.

Open to public comments

The National Physical Fitness Programme — the draft of which will be open to public comments for a month – envisages evaluation of every child studying in Class V and above on the six components of fitness by being made to participate in eight tests. The student’s performance will accordingly be graded and fed into his/her Assessment Card and the school’s Fitness Assessment Forms, as designed by the Gwalior-based Lakshmibai National University of Physical Education. Data will be collected at the district level.

The top 10 per cent of performers gender-wise in each district will be given an additional 3 per cent in the scores they obtained in academic disciplines. Performers ranking between the top 10 and 20 per cent will get an additional 2.5 per cent; those between 20 and 30 per cent, 2 per cent; those between 30 and 40 per cent, 1.5 per cent and those between 40 and 50 per cent, one per cent.

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