Re-imagining the role of play

Usha Raman

Each year when we plan our summer double we embark on it with a mixture of excitement and anxiety. Excitement because of the opportunity we have to explore a subject area in some depth, looking at it from multiple vantage points and articulating it through many voices. And anxiety because we’re never quite sure whether we will be able to do the subject justice and if we can draw in an adequately competent group of writers and educationists to contribute articles. This year, the task was even more challenging because we were tackling an often-overlooked subject – in fact, one that is often not seen as a subject at all, but just as a set of activities to be stuck into the time table and pulled out on special occasions. As almost all the articles in this issue note, Sports Education (SE) and Physical Education (PE) have received short shrift in school education. Despite the wide acknowledgment that education must nurture the body, mind and spirit, our focus ends up being almost exclusively on the mind, to the near-exclusion of the other two aspects of life. And despite the fact that most school boards prescribe the formal inclusion of these subjects in the school curriculum all the way from kindergarten to higher secondary, very few actually have the space or the wherewithal to offer a well designed and properly delivered PE or SE programme.

We recognize that the two terms – sports education and physical education – are quite distinct; the first relating to the building of skills and understanding of specific games and sporting activities, and the second focusing more on fitness and health. Some schools thus have separate timetable slots for PE and sports, while others have a combined period where both general fitness and skill in games are addressed. The attention given to sports may range from obsessively competitive to extremely desultory, and only rarely is there an attempt to integrate what happens on the field with what happens in the classroom.

This issue is an attempt to widen the perspective on both PE and SE, and to explore the different ways in which schools might reimagine the role of play and movement in education. How can we not only draw lessons for life from sports, but also infuse more life into sports teaching and learning? How can we make children comfortable with their bodies and take pleasure from engaging in physical activity? And how can we ensure that all children benefit from an exposure to sport, in a way that helps them in the classroom and beyond? The articles in this issue give us a sense of how we might do this, and more.

But as always, even as we put down our editorial pencils and send the pages to the printer, we have a sense that the last word on this theme is yet to be written. There’s a lot more that can be said, and the conversation has only just got started for us. We hope that our readers will take it forward!

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