It’s all work, no play for pupils as schools in Kerala lack enough physical education teachers
KOZHIKODE: In a move to emphasize the significance of physical education (PE) in schools, the state government issued a circular on July 19, urging strict adherence to PE periods. The order explicitly stated that PE classes should not be replaced with other subjects, demonstrating the government’s commitment to promoting student well-being and fitness.
However, a perplexing question lingers: Who will conduct these physical education classes? This query echoes across numerous schools in the state, as the government is yet to appoint physical education teachers (PETs) in its educational institutions.
The predicament is particularly grave in the Higher Secondary section, where not a single school has a PET. Currently, the two PE class periods allocated per week are often substituted with other subjects, accommodating additional time requirements for core subjects. While the new directive mandates the obligatory inclusion of PE periods across all sections, the government seemingly overlooked the fact that no PETs have been appointed in the Higher Secondary School (HSS) section.
The state is home to over 12,644 schools, comprising 4,504 government schools, 7,277 aided schools, and 863 unaided schools. Among these, 6,817 are Lower Primary (LP) Schools, 3,037 Upper Primary (UP) Schools, and 2,790 High Schools (HS). At the Higher Secondary level, there are presently 1,907 institutions, encompassing government, aided, and unaided schools. Regrettably, half of these schools lack PET teachers.
Sebastine John, an HSS teacher at St Joseph’s Boys HSS and a state executive member of the Aided Higher Secondary School Teachers Association, expressed his plight, “Every week, I am allocated at least two extra periods with my students to cover pending coursework, as the compulsory PE period is excluded from their timetable.” The absence of PETs in the HSS section is disheartening. Even HS and LP/UP schools in the state grapple with insufficient PETs.
A previous directive from the department tasked HS section PETs with teaching UP classes, for which the government sanctioned a paltry Rs 50 per month as an additional salary. Due to this inadequate amount, HS teachers declined to take UP classes, he pointed out. “According to the government’s teachers appointment policy, schools with fewer than 500 students will not have a PET. In this situation how will a school run their PE classes without a professional teacher? Only big schools with a maximum number of students are allotted two PETs, unfortunately, many such schools are yet to fill their PET posts,” he added.
Biju Augustine, PET from Kannur district said, “We have an association named Department of PET, which has raised demands before the government to raise the PET’s in the schools here. In the Kannur district alone, only two schools have PET 67 high schools. Even the salary scale of a PET in the high school is the scale of UP. We have been demanding equal pay but there has always been discrimination towards our sector.
Medical experts have consistently pointed out that a lack of physical activity is contributing to various health issues among children. However, the government’s promises often remain confined to paper. As several private institutions take proactive steps to incorporate multiple physical activities for students, government and aided schools appear to be evading their responsibilities towards children’s physical development.