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Are extracurricular activities really extra?

Dr Richa Prakash-Dr Richa Prakash, Principal, Allenhouse Public School, Panki, Kanpur

In these COVID-19 times that we are striving to overcome, the first question that came to my mind was ‘What role does extra-curricular vis a vis academics play in our adult life’? While some of us are still pondering over it, others may already know Aristotle said ‘The quality of life is determined by its activities’ because as we all know learning is ubiquitous and we all are constantly learning. Learning is not limited to the classroom or school precincts.

So the extra in the extra-curricular isn’t the extra as we understand the word in the present context, additional but the prefix extra in curricular means beyond and outside the curricular or the course of study.

Juxtapose it to the co-curricular activities wherein the prefix ‘co’means that which supplements and complements learning within the curriculum. Let me exemplify the difference between the two, a role play on an act from any of the plays in school from Shakespeare which is a part of the curriculum in CBSE or ICSE board, will be seen as the co-curricular while if a child attends a live performance at the theater of the play of Shakespeare, then that would be the extra-curricular activity.

The components of the extra-curricular activities are multifaceted ranging from participation in the performing arts like dance, music, drama to adventure sports activities like bungee jumping, paragliding, zip line to name a few  and sports activities like cricket, taekwondo, gymnastics and last but not the least volunteering for community service by visiting and assisting at the old age homes, orphanage.

These components of extra-curricular are crucial in this 21st century for the 21st century learners to imbibe and learn the most important skill sets imperative for the 21st century and that is the Life Skills. Life skills as we know are the most comprehensive attributes that help an individual to adapt and deal effectively with the demands and challenges of life. Life skills like problem solving, decision making, team work and collaborative work, empathy etc. The pandemic indeed is the most challenging of it all in our lifetime.

Schools play their role in extra-curricular by organizing a plethora of activities like the annual day functions, excursions, visit to art galleries and museums, visit to orphanage, destitute homes, animal welfare units. The aforementioned skill sets are possible to imbibe with the cooperation of both educators and parents. To quote myself “All educators are not Parents but all Parents are Educators”. However parent’s role is imperative in bringing about a holistic development of the child by instilling empathy quotient in their children.

The World Happiness Report published by UN ranks Denmark consistently as topping in the Happiness quotient which is largely attributed to the zeitgeist of the Danish way of parenting expressed through Hygge. ‘Hygge is the quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.

A very good example of instilling in our children the culture of sensitivity towards their immediate environment can be brought about through an example of the Sikh community which through the Gurudwaras has the concept of volunteering for community service.  You have all read and watched in news of the ovation given by the Delhi police and the subsequent praise showered by our Honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi on  the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib volunteers for their exemplary service towards the marginalized, disadvantaged, under-privileged sections of the society especially during the pandemic,  when many migrant workers could not forage for themselves.

The experiential learning from this example which is beyond the curriculum is foundational in developing the personality of an awakened citizen who would be a responsible and sensitive individual.

So, let us all together go that extra mile to bring out the extraordinary in our children so that they can marvel and appreciate the small wonders bestowed upon us in this ordinary life because extra-curricular is a part of lifelong learning.

Also read: Effect of epidemics on education and distance learning

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