It is widely acknowledged that health is influenced by
biological, social, economic, cultural and political forces.
Access to basic needs like food, safe drinking water
supply, housing, sanitation and health services influences
the health status of a population, and these are reflected
through mortality and nutritional indicator s. Health is a
critical input for the overall development of the child,
and it influences enrolment, retention and school
completion rates significantly. This curriculum area
adopts a holistic definition of health within which
physical education and yoga contribute to the physical,
social, emotional and mental development of a child.
Undernourishment and communicable diseases are
the major health problems faced by the majority of
children in India, from the pre-primary to the higher
secondary school stages. Therefore, the need to address
this aspect at all levels of schooling, with special attention
to vulnerable social groups and girl children. It is
proposed that the midday meal programme and medical
check-ups be made a part of the curriculum and
education about health be provided that address the agespecific
concerns at different stages of development.
The idea of a comprehensive school health programme,
conceived in the 1940s, included six major components,
viz., medical care, hygienic school environment, and
school lunch, health and physical education. These
components are important for the overall development
of the child, and hence need to be included in the
curriculum. The more recent addition to the curriculum
is yoga. The entire group must be taken together as a
comprehensive health and physical education curriculum,
replacing the fragmentary approach current in schools
today. As a core part of the curriculum, time allocated
for games and for yoga must not be reduced or taken
away under any circumstances.
There is growing realisation that the health needs of
adolescents, particularly their reproductive and sexual health
needs, require to be addressed. Since these needs
predominantly relate to sex and sexuality, which is culturally
a very sensitive area, they are deprived of opportunities
to get the appropriate information. As such, their
understanding of reproductive and sexual health and their
behaviour in this regard are guided predominantly by
myths and misconceptions, making them vulnerable to
risky situations, such as drug/substance abuse and HIV/
AIDS transmission. Age- appropriate context-specific
interventions focused on adolescent reproductive and
sexual health concerns, including HIV/AIDS and drug/
substance abuse, therefore, are needed to provide children
opportunities to construct knowledge and acquire life skills,
so that they cope with concerns related to the process of
growing up.
Given the multidimensional nature of health, there are
many opportunities for cross-curricular learning and
integration. Activities such as the National Service
Scheme, Bharat Scouts and Guides, and the National
Cadet Corps are some such areas. The sciences provide
opportunities for learning about physiology, health and
disease, and the interdependencies between various
living organisms and the physical habitat. The social
sciences could provide insights into community health
as well as an understanding of the spread, control and
cure of infectious diseases from a global
socio-economic perspective. This subject lends itself
to applied learning, and innovative approaches can be
adopted for transacting the curriculum.
The importance of this subject to overall
development needs to be reinforced at the policy level,
with participation by administrators, other subject
teachers in schools, the Health Department, parents
and children. Recognising this subject as a core subject
Health and Physical Education must continue to be a
compulsory subject from the primary, to the secondary
stages, and as an optional subject at the higher secondary
stage. However, it needs to be given equal status with
other subjects, a status that is not being given at present.
In order to transact the curriculum effectively, it is
essential to ensure that the minimum essential physical
space and equipment are available in every school, and
that doctors and medical personnel visit school
regularly. Teacher preparation for this area needs
well-planned and concerted efforts. This subject area,
consisting of health education, physical education and
yoga, must be suitably integrated into the elementary
and secondary pre-service teacher education courses.
The potential of the existing physical education training
institutes should be reviewed and utilised adequately.
Similarly, their appropriate syllabi and teacher training
for transaction of yoga in schools need to be reviewed
and reformulated. It is also essential to ensure that these
concerns are integrated into the activities of the National
Service Scheme, the Scouts and Guides, and the
National Cadet Corps.
The \’needs-based approach\’ could guide the
dimensions of the physical, psychosocial and mental
aspects that need to be included at different levels of
schooling. A basic understanding of the concerns is
necessary, but the more important dimension is that
of experience and development of health, skills and
physical well being through practical engagement with
play, exercise, sports, and practices of personal and
community hygiene. Collective and individual
responsibilities for health and community living need
to be emphasised. Several national health programmes
like Reproductive and Child Health, HIV/AIDS,
Tuberculosis and Mental Health have been targeting
childr en as a focus group with prevention in view. These
demands on children need to be integrated into existing
curricular activities rather than adding these on.
Yoga may be introduced from the primary level
onwards in informal ways, but formal introduction
of yogic exercises should begin only from Class VI
onwards. All interventions, including even health and
hygiene education, must rely on the practical and
experiential dimensions of children\’s lives. There may
be more emphasis on the inclusion of sports and games
from the local area.
It should be possible to organise the utilisation
of school space, at the block level at least, for special
sports programmes both before school hours and after
school hours to enable children with special talents for
sports to come here for special training and during
vacation periods. It should also be possible to develop
these sports facilities so that many more children can
avail of these for leisure-time sports activities and engage
with team games such as basketball, throwball,