What are the requirements to complete an engineering degree? If you thought it was passing all papers in the discipline, you thought wrongly. The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has changed the rules of the game. The Times of India reports that the body, which is in charge of governing more than 10,000 institutions in the country, has passed an order making yoga, sports or socially-relevant activities mandatory for students to earn a degree from engineering colleges or technical institutes. Given how little attention we pay to the extra-curricular, the move would seem laudable, but unfortunately, this focus on inculcating extra-curricular pursuits comes a bit too late in a student’s life. The admirable goal notwithstanding, forcing students at the higher education level—where the curriculum likely takes up most of their time—to mandatorily attend and develop competence in, say, yoga is asking too much. AICTE, however, is not the only regulator issuing such quixotic orders. Earlier this year, UGC had asked all universities to observe the International Yoga Day and submit proof of activities undertaken for review.
If the plan is to promote extra-curricular activities and sports, a better model to follow would be to engage students in these activities in school, rather than force these upon them in college. Khele India, launched by the PM, can prove to be a game-changer. As Gujarat CM, he had launched Khele Gujarat in 2010, and it may have helped the state in going from being ranked 28th in the 2011 National Game to being ranked 9th in the 2015 Games. But what schools actually need is infrastructure. India’s spending on sports is nowhere near that of the developed countries.
For instance, as per a BBC analysis, UK spent £264 million in the 2012 London Games, to win 65 medals, while the US Olympics Committee shelled out more than $232 million to help American athletes win 110 medals at the Beijing Games. In contrast, though India has improved its Olympic budget to Rs 125 crore (roughly $18.75 million) at Rio from Rs 15 crore or so earlier, it remains niggardly support.