Today, India has the second highest number of obese children in the world, second only to China.
“But this was not the case 20 years back, as children on an average used to play much more then,” says Parminder Gill.
Gill is the co-founder of Bengaluru-based EduSports - a sports education organisation which provides physical education (PE) training in specialised sports. Having the motto, ‘Sports is Education’, it is currently working with over 700 schools covering 5,00,000 children across 250 locations in India.
EduSports believes in developing healthier and fitter generation by giving an inclusive sporting experience to kids in schools. They collaborate with schools across the country to make sports an integral part of school curriculum by using structured physical activity and sports as a pedagogical tool for developing mental skills, behavioural skills and physical conditioning in the children.
Besides, this, EduSports also provides vocational education in Sports to nine states all across India in collaboration with the respective state governments. This program aims at enhancing the skill sets of students in Sports and Physical Education, thus garnering employment opportunities for the students. The program also includes on-job training, industry exposure, internships and placement support.
The EduSports curriculum has been developed based on NASPE (National Association for Sports and Physical education, USA). The program is designed based on five pillars viz. Age-appropriate, Proficient and certified resource, Talent identification and development modules and Parent engagement.
In an interview with TNM, Parminder Gill spoke about the origins of the company, the work they do and the competition among other things.
Here are excerpts from the interview.
Why are children nowadays playing less?
This is only natural with the diminishing spaces in urban areas and several things fighting for the same time, which includes homework, television and internet.
The safety and security issues that bother parents today also needs to be taken into account. In our times, parents would just ask us to get out of our homes.
Playtime has to be sanctified and kept aside for sports and today children have to be forced to go out to play.
How did the thought of starting a company arise?
I along with my friends saw a business opportunity when we set up the company in 2009. Then we realised the best place to start was in schools as they already have their games periods and space was also available that was safe and secure. Currently, nothing much happens in games periods. He claims PE teachers are tasked with various jobs, in addition to the subject and they don’t know what to teach.
That’s how the idea of creating a curriculum and assessment system came up. We thought we would be more of a content company rather than a services company that we are today.
What were the initial challenges?
At the start, convincing schools to invest in sports education was difficult. However, now Edusport functions as a partner for close to 800 schools. We did some studies and collected data which showed that children who play are not only generally better in social, emotional skills but also in academics. This pushed parents to ask schools who were initially reluctant to invest in physical education, to focus more in this area.
Parents are now having a conversation around physical education apart from discussions around studies.
What are the focus areas?
Strength, flexibility and endurance are the three main important components which we concentrate on. There's a 10-point report that is sent to parents which enables them to keep track of their ward’s physical activities. TVS school in Madurai was the first institution where EduSports got on board in 2010. Before that, we had done a couple of promotional campaigns in schools across India.
What was the initial plan?
Our initial plan was to train the existing school faculty and give them support. But then the schools approached us and asked us to provide the manpower too. Then we thought of becoming a full-service company where we had to hire our first 20-30 trainers. Currently the company has close to a 1,000 employees with around 800 trainers who work in different schools.
Does EduSports’ service place an additional burden on parents?
We seek only 5% of the school’s existing budget given that there are just two out of the 40 periods in a week that are allotted for games. We also realised that not even 1% of the school’s budget was being spent for this purpose. Moreover, the costs can be controlled if a school can internalise the process, without hiring any trainers from EduSports. In such schools, we only have to play a supporting role after three to four years.
On working with disabled children
We also work with four or five schools that are focussed on ‘special needs children’ (disabled). We have noticed that after implementing our programs, the children have opened up more.
A word about SHAKTI- the girl self-defence program
It incorporates different martial art skills and other self-defence techniques to empower school-going girls. We run these workshops for 10-12 weeks based on availability. This not only readies them physically but also mentally. They prepare for real-life situations where they could be in danger, eg. If somebody is trying to abduct and force them into a car.
What sets you apart?
Our module is very indigenous and worked out keeping in mind the local factors. We are not keen on bringing training modules from US, Australia or other countries and using it here like our competitors. This will work only in bigger schools but not across India.