It is the beginning of the holiday season after the exams.
Children will largely be at home and parents will most likely be coping with an
overdose of adrenaline, captive energy, and a high degree of restlessness. So,
why is it essential for children to engage actively and vigorously in
extracurricular activities during the sabbatical? What are those activities
that can strengthen a child’s mental, physical, and psychological faculties, in
view of the considerable stresses that the child undergoes today? What could be
the enabling ecosystem that once could foster at home and school in aid of the
above? How do we build an ecosystem that fosters a culture where
extracurricular is no longer extracurricular but curricular? These were some of
the questions that the 34th Rajagiri Round Table Conference held at the
Regional Centre of the Indira Gandhi National Open University Kochi considered.
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jurgen Trost,Faculty of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Sciences and Adj. Prof of Rajagiri School of Engineering, Rajagiri: The vacation provides wings to children during their growing years. Children can learn to relax and unwind. It is then we can provide them the opportunities to develop their faculties of curiosity. Most importantly, it is also the time when children can pursue and build on hobbies that can transform their lives in unexpected and productive ways.
Dr. Sindhu Nair, Director, IGNOU Regional Centre Kochi: A child’s world is very different from that of an adult. In fact, they lead a completely different childhood! For one, they are technologically savvier than we are. These aspects need to be understood in a holistic manner for us to be able to carry out any meaningful intervention. The vacation could become a play-way method of learning, where parents also give children quality time.
Dr. Praseetha Unnikrishnan, Assistant Director, IGNOU Regional Centre Kochi: Vacations are a much needed breathing space, where children can exercise their choice be it in art, sport, or the sciences. In fact, they need to be given space beyond structures. More importantly, as they are mostly confined to homes, TV, and a variety of gadgets, children need to be encouraged to take up outdoor sport, so that they are able to develop both their mental and physical faculties optimally. Let children be sent out on nature treks, while exploring the unexplored, together with their peers, so that they also learn essential life skills and are able to handle peer group interactions without adult supervision.
Capt. B. K. Iyer, Entrepreneur, Tennis Pro, and Musician: I am not a four-walled person — so I have always been an outlier of sorts. In fact, it was my daughter Divya who taught us a lot and gave us a lot to ponder, especially that we cannot have a template for ‘parenting’. I have always been a sportsperson, an avid tennis player, in fact. So, I put her into sport. Sport is not only a physical activity — as a mental activity, it is an absolute must for every growing child. Children need to be taught to go beyond the merely curricular and we as parents ought to be able to interpret their interests and give them a chance to ‘choose’ and test their acumen. Activities outside the classroom are critical and, today, a paradigm shift is essential.
Henrietta Decruz, CountryPartner, Street Heroes of India, Kochi: Today, one teenager commits suicide every 55 minutes in India! That is an alarming premise to begin with. In fact, we are staring at a brutal fact of life in India. We need to think how did this come about? For one, we have an impersonal education system, where parents and the system together forget that they are children. Today, there are no real relationships in their homes and outside. We need to teach ourselves and our children the art of self-exploration. Children have the imagination and the creativity to take on DIY (Do It Yourself) projects. It’s also the time to bond with families. In fact, vacations are the time for homework — for parents to work together with children. It is also the time for children to encounter something different and appreciate the unfamiliar, for example, spending meaningful time at an orphanage. Giving something away is that part of vital experiential learning that our children need to learn.
Prof. Dr. P. R. Poduval, Former Director, School of Management Studies, CUSAT: Extracurricular activities have become big business. On the other hand, some parents are only too happy to keep children out of their hair, hence the proliferation of these summer activities! Most parents today are concerned not with the idea of ‘goodness’ of their children, it’s rather the idea of ‘greatness’ that they are obsessed with. So, let parents be better guided in terms of managing time better. What children want is a happy home life, which is largely missing during the preceding 10 months of the academic year. Are we clear in our minds about our objectives? To my mind the most important thing is enriching our children’s experiences, particularly with the unfamiliar and the unstructured be it people, places, or cultures.
Dr. A. K. Prema, Counsellor, IGNOU, and Former Professor (Retd), Cochin College: Why should there be a distinction at all between the curricular and the extracurricular? For example, enacting a play is akin to reskilling for life itself. So, there needn’t be any walls or degrees of separation between the ‘notions’ of the curricular and the extracurricular. What matters most today is the lack of quality time spent together as a family unit. By quality time is meant that fine amalgamation of the physical, the mental, and the spiritual dimensions of life. Quality time can be spent both in nature and at home. In nature such time spent is transformational — it transforms human nature — while at home time spent taking part in household chores is essential training in empathy and training for life.
K. J. Sohan, Former Mayor,Kochi: What are the choices available to children today? There are greater facilities for sure, but are they available to the children at large? Once upon a time, we used to train our children at sea. Town planning regulations say that 15 percent of space in any city needs to be designated as open spaces for the use of children and members of the public for recreation. Kochi has less than 1 percent! These spaces are essentially secular in nature and when children come together in these spaces there is greater bonding. It is health giving and gives them memories. There is great non-verbal learning — by playing football or any other team sport. It was not for nothing that it was said that “The battle of Waterloo was won on the fields of Eton”. Children need to be thrown out there into the fields during the vacations. Our activities, even art, need to be participative. For that to happen, there needs to be greater democratisation of sporting/ public facilities, which are at once affordable and accessible to children at large.
Arun Shashi, Student, IGNOU, Psychology: There is far too much focus on academics. In fact, life skills need greater focus, and, most importantly, our children need freedom from the fear of failure. Summer camps are largely short-lived activities. Extracurricular activities need to be continuous and such activities should begin at home where children train to work with their parents as a team. The simple act of spending time together at home could make for a great beginning. There is a greater need for emotional development and, indeed, the necessity to fail.
Hajisha, Student, IGNOU, Psychology: Extracurricular activities are an important part of children’s lives. There are four key areas that merit attention: physical development, emotional development, social development, and cognitive development. Children today need to be exposed to a variety of situations and experiences, particularly the unfamiliar and the uncomfortable, so that they grow up into well rounded, balanced individuals.
Anand Krishnamurthy, Academic Counsellor, English, IGNOU: Summer is witness to a mushrooming of ‘camps’ across the city for children. Sure enough, some of them should be good enough, but do such camps alone suffice? There needs to be greater focus on social skills and social integration. For example, theatre and theatre dynamics can play a great role in the aforesaid emotional and social integration. Children also need to be trained in self-defence, given the times that we inhabit. Additionally, given the extraordinary consumption of media today, children also need to be given the right orientation in the use of social media.
Rema K. Nair, Teacher, Vidyodaya School, Kochi: How do we bring about a holistic view around the idea of the curricular and the extracurricular? It should begin at home. In a society that has increasingly become disjointed, it isn’t surprising that our homes, too, have theatres of dissociation. There needs to be deeper and more meaningful emotional integration at home. Only then can it have positive resonances on society. What we see today are multiplexes inside our homes! Each member of the family in front of one screen or another and all by himself or herself. We need to get our children out of this multiplex.
Dr. Varghese Panthalookaran, Director, Rajagiri Media and Professor of Engineering, RSET: This is the time for a certain ‘re-creation’, where children need to be taken back to their roots as it were. Let children also be given that freedom of space to explore themselves, where adults become mere facilitators and not supervisors. If children are given that sense of wondrous exploration, they will be able to identify their innate talents on their own. It is also the time, therefore, to create and recreate so to say.
In the fitness of things, the Round Table concluded with a virtuoso musical performance by Capt. B. K. Iyer, leading, at once, to both an emotional and intellectual catharsis of sorts. Music adds to the essence of life.