The need for PL (physical literacy) to be adopted by schools (CBSE) in India as a mandatory part of the school curriculum. “To be physically literate, one should be creative, imaginative, and clear in expressive movement, competent and efficient in utilitarian movement and inventive, versatile, and skillful in objective movement. The body is the means by which ideas and aims are carried out and, therefore, it must become both sensitive and deft”. Morrison,
This has since been reworked and revised and now widely adopted as a definition as stated by Dr. Margaret Whitehead (a leading expert in the field of PL) as, “a disposition acquired by individuals encompassing the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge, and understanding that establishes purposeful physical pursuits as an integral element of their lifestyle”.
Let us begin with what is literacy? In simple words, it means ‘being educated’. So what then is physical literacy (PL) and why are we talking about it? In a common man’s understanding, PL is a concept designed to imbibe the values of confidence and optimum physical (body) movement and the ability to use it creatively and skillfully.
PL (physical literacy) is thus an aspect of Physical Education (PE). While PE is the ability to educate through PA (physical activity) and PF (physical fitness) there is a thin line between all the coined terms. They are all meant to complement and support each other and the overall objective of an individual (especially children) in gaining confidence, skills, and enhanced mental and emotional performance through being physically fit, active, and participative. PE is structured to achieve optimum national goals for physical activity amongst children. By adapting to its available environmental conditions and needs, PE has become confined to limited efforts into keeping children physically active but not necessarily physically fit or even engaged.
For eg: monitoring a child from age 3-6 for basic skills such as catching and throwing at pre-school, which activates their brain functionality, ability to be cognitive, improve their reactions, while these further stimulate their ability to learn, study, use their brains for further structured activities, and on an emotional development note allows them to learn from both their ability and inability to catch and throw. They learn fundamental life skill lessons of not giving up and trying till they learn and succeed. Children also learn about playing as a community and developing their social skills. Further, these skills can be enhanced for primary school children based on their motor development where the introduction to various sports can be made, not necessarily as the sport itself but teaching them skills required for it. For eg: kicking into the net (can be a skill used later for soccer), throwing a ball over the net (a skill used for netball games or racquet-based games). Even our local
sports like marbles, Gilli danda, lagori, etc which teaches the skill of aiming/focus/concentration as well as a much better neuro-muscular
coordination. All of this ripples effectively into their cognitive development, their confidence to play a sport or as confidence as a person, enhanced social skills, ability to be creative, etc.
As we progress into further growing years, the valuable aspects of physical literacy are ingrained into children as important essentials of physical
education and also that of remaining physically fit. It becomes even more important to have PL as part of adolescent and high school structures as we see a maximum drop in any kind of physical activity and emphasis on studies alone. Which in turn affects their growth, eating habits, and also mental development, social skills taking a back seat, and also their abilities to learn vital life skills through movement sports and games.
The aspect of physical health and fitness as a lifelong journey is lost in it becoming limited to only a few who are either fond of playing sports or taking it up as a career. Or having socially and emotionally confident teens or young adults which have led us to have an entire generation of adults who have hardly participated in games or sports as a leisure activity or any kind of movement as a way of keeping fit. PL can be structured to capture all kinds of aspects of physical movements, be it sports or dancing or walking or yoga. For a more India specific curriculum, we can look to introduce all kinds of environments, taking a cue from countries who are using and implementing PL as part of their curriculum to introduce children to all kinds of water, land, mountain terrain, mat/floor, outdoor/indoor kind of activities as an introduction and part of skill development.
With the introduction of physical literacy as a vital part of the physical education curriculum in schools, an effective result in a year or two’s time can be
quantified as the students being:
- physically active and fit
- responsible and skillful
- has confidence and physical competence
- mentally and emotionally developed to their potential
- have valuable social skills
- are community and environmentally conscious.
A physically literate India can lead to a healthier India tomorrow. To make a
start we require to educate ourselves and our teachers to be able to
implement the learning of these skills for the maximum benefit of every individual.
The role of teachers in inculcating the values of PL and supporting the growth
of every child in their journey towards their future is extremely vital.
When it comes down to development at the grassroots level, physical literacy can
be a very vital tool where it educates the child on specific sport based, muscle
group training with resilience, agility, endurance,
strength, etc. being
taught as factors that could be trained as factors without requiring a
strength and conditioning coach or a coach who can look at the physical
training aspects of the athlete. This would result in a drastic improvement of
the baseline athlete who can come up and then choose whichever sport he
wants to. It also means that these athletes will have a shorter and more
flattened learning curve and would merely need to understand and train their
skills in the sport that they choose.
Physical literacy is thus a game-changing concept for the evolution of Indian
sports from its grassroots which is the schools, where there is a dire need for
enhanced psychomotor development, early adaptability, quantification,
qualification, assessment as well as a reward-based system that has the
potential to propel India into the league of superpowers that compete for
supremacy & domination in the field of sports.