Are sports an academic discipline? Are sports considered second rate in comparison to academic courses? Are the sports persons not entitled to pursue academic courses? Should the sports persons be denied the opportunity to equip themselves with academic degrees to fall back upon when their sporting career comes to an end around the early forties? Is there some meeting point for sports and academics or they are different? Answer to these questions assume significance in the context of the difficulties faced by the captain of the U-19 cricket team of India Mr Unmukt Chand, who has not been allowed to write his semester exams because of shortfall in class attendance.
As is usual in India, things are decided by influence peddling in such situations rather than straightening up procedures. In this case also the Captain of the Indian cricket team, M S Dhoni, State Minister of Sports Maken, HRD Minister and the vice Chancellor of the Delhi university, all have advocated relaxation of the rule in favour of Unmukt Chand, the skipper of the U-19 team. The question is : why should it need the recommendations of the ministers or anybody else? Why should such problems not get sorted out amicably? The answer is: we neither think innovative nor encourage innovative thinking in public domain. Because the rules regarding class attendance have been laid down by the British Government in India, and we have been following them, we treat them unbreakable. It could have been justifiable till the last decade of the 20th Century, but not in the present century. In the 21st Century, our thinking must be highly innovative, original and creative to be able to face the competition before us.
Chand was attending regularly to his sports class, if the definition of the word class is expanded to include practice sessions and playing matches. He could not attend two classes simultaneously. Either his attendance should be treated together at both the classes or we should set up new universities, which provide multi-disciplinary courses of study, where sports persons like Chand could pursue both their academic and professional courses simultaneously. It is possible to undertake multi-tasking at this young age when you have yet to cross the twenties. In fact, after a sports session of 4 or 5 hours, you concentrate more gainfully on studies because the mind too needs corresponding intellectual nutrition. An excellent sports person can be and generally is excellent at studies. His grasp is much better than others. His body and mind are under his control. There is less distraction and hence quicker grasp of the subject. In fact, excellence both in studies and sports is complimentary to each other. They help development of a well rounded personality.
Sports are almost science today. They are a profession for those engaged in it. It means, regular academic courses in sports will prove doubly beneficial to sports persons. Like medial graduates doing internship, the sports persons’ internship would be on the field. It would eliminate the problem that Chand, and like him others, face about attendance. It will also give them the opportunity of pursuing a course of their choice like economics, sociology, law, physics, chemistry or any other. While sports will sustain them up to a certain age, say 40 years at the most, the academic qualifications will sustain them thereafter. Sports persons can rightly be excellent in sports and academics. Good sportsmen can make good intellectuals and good intellectuals can make good sports persons. Why separate them and treat each one differently? Why put them in classes or categories to show one as superior to the other? To think otherwise, it needs a different mind set- a new, creative, original and innovative mind. It would serve public purpose if the government recognizes the significance of it and values innovation. Then there would be no need to make any recommendations for relaxation of rules for any sports person.
Before I close the subject of attendance in classes, let me put my personal views about attendance. As a college Lecturer I also used to carry a register containing the names of the students in the class, whose attendance was to be marked. I always found this exercise as waste of precious academic time. Marking attendance is no guarantee of discipline in the class, as the presence of students in the class depended on several factors like the capacity of the teacher to captivate the young inquisitive minds and give them something so useful that they could not get from private coaching or help books, and the composition of the students. The young boys would become a bit unruly in their first year in college after leaving the school and would love to make maximum use of this newly found freedom. They could be pranksters, outright mischievous or brain teasers to a teacher lacking confidence. The mischief starts with attendance when peers speak for their absentee friends. I used to leave the register on the table asking the students to mark their attendance if they chose to do so. That used to disarm them and helped me win their trust. In an academic year, there are no more than 80 -120 lectures in all. But a deeper study of the subjects needs more lectures than these. Good teachers hold extra classes for the benefit of the students. High academic standards quickly win the respect and trust of the students, who see in their teacher their friend. philosopher and guide. That leads to the most wonderful academic relationship that last beyond the academic session to even the whole life. That is the kind of teacher- taught relationship that has been the most admirable aspect of the Indian education system for ages. I remember my teachers and some of my own students sometimes remember me too. Attendance is just a means of ensuring that students devote their valuable time to learning. It is no use sitting in the class room when the mind is elsewhere or the lecture is not engrossing, only for the sake of attendance. The success of a teacher should be judged if his lecture has full strength of students and also attracts other students when their Lecturer happens to be on leave. Hence students need not be denied the chance to write their exams. They can make up for loss of regular lectures with the kind support of the teachers, who agree to hold extra classes. It helps all students.