fifty years ago June 30, 1970 Archives

From the Archives (June 30, 1970): Schools and playing fields(From an editorial)

In recognition of the fact that local bodies, particularly the urban ones, are the primary agencies for ministering to the citizen’s social, cultural and physical needs, the Indian Institute of Public Administration has made a study of the educational and recreational activities of towns in the different States. The study points out that there is a link between education and recreation because “as a man’s educational and cultural level rises, his capacity to enjoy leisure intelligently increases.” To the extent that India’s urban population is growing rapidly and there is the urge to rationalise working hours with more time for leisure, the needs of both education and recreation are certainly being pushed into sharper focus. It is disappointing to note therefore from the IIPA study that there is a lot of leeway to be made up in providing basic amenities. In estimating educational facilities in the country, the index has to be the number of pupils per school, since this figure has a precise bearing on methods of school organisation, class-room practices, teacher-pupil ratio, and the like. If the national average for enrolment in a primary school in rural areas is 90 and the corresponding figure for the urban areas 226 as assessed by the Second All India Education Survey, it is clear from the IIPA study that a large number of towns have less than average enrolment. Part of this deficiency can be traced to the fact that in the municipal Acts of certain States the provision of primary education has been made an obligatory function while in certain others it is a discretionary function. In almost all States, much of the expenditure of local authorities on education is subsidised through heavy grants from the State Governments. This has, of course, ensured that irrespective of the sloth afflicting some local bodies, primary education has been able to make some headway, as is shown by the fact that the average distance a pupil has to traverse to reach his school is less than one kilometer generally. The record of local bodies with regard to the provision of recreation facilities is not so good. People in affluent societies can take care of their recreation needs themselves. They can drive to the countryside, go fishing, hunting, sea-bathing or bird-watching. But in developing countries these facilities have to be organised by the community. Though municipal Acts prescribe, either as an obligatory or discretionary function, the maintenance by local bodies of parks and playgrounds and the organisation of exhibitions, fairs and public entertainments, there has been a sad neglect of this responsibility. Some towns maintain sports stadia, swimming pools and the like, but they are in a minority. Since the density of population in these areas is generally high, provision of parks is absolutely necessary to ensure that the citizen is not denied even his minimum recreational need, namely, the opportunity to breathe fresh air.

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