Co-curricular activities in schools
Should schools and colleges increase the importance placed on co-curricular activities, so that they are formally recognised as equal to the academic curriculum?
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Co-curricular activities prepare students practically for the future. The normal curriculum can only...
Co-curricular activities prepare students practically for the future. The normal curriculum can only go so far as to teach and educate students about academic theories. But students whose only experience of school or college is one of rigid academic study may not be able to apply what they have learned in practice. If the co-curriculum was given an equal footing in student life there will be an improvement in the student ability to grasp things as a whole, because students will have received a more rounded education. Co-curricular activities are particularly good at providing opportunities for students to work in teams, to exercise leadership, and to take the initiative themselves. These experiences make students more attractive to universities and to potential employers.
The academic curriculum is really much more important and must continue to be given more status in schools and colleges than the co-curriculum. Students are meant to be receiving an education and gaining recognised qualifications. Higher Education institutions place a greater importance on the curriculum than the co-curriculum when selecting students, and so do employers. Co-curricular activities are nice, but they have never been shown to actually play a vital role in a student’s life. And if they distract students from focusing on their academic qualifications, then they could be actually harmful.
Most co-curricular activities are physically active, getting the student out from behind their desk ...
Most co-curricular activities are physically active, getting the student out from behind their desk and making them try new things. This is healthy and ensures that students are exposed to practical tasks, not just what is taught in class. The outcome of giving the co-curriculum the same status as the curriculum will therefore be well balanced individuals. Future politicians, for example, will not only thrive on law or social studies, but will also become fluent in multiple languages, learn to tango and perform several calculus operations simultaneously, while also experiencing service through community work. Such are the more profound benefits of the co-curriculum being integrated into the syllabus.
There is no obvious logic in having super talented individuals, instead society should lean itself towards making specialised individuals in their selected fields. Most modern careers require expert knowledge and skills, which can take years to acquire. We should not distract a student from developing skills in whatever selected field he or she has chosen to specialise in. After all, when you see a doctor or employ an engineer, you are not interested in how “well-rounded” they are, just in whether they are good at their job. And the Prime Minister does not play soccer or tango in the House of the Commons, therefore they do not require such skills as part of their formal education.
Having a wide range of experiences prepares people better for the future, especially in today’s unce...
Having a wide range of experiences prepares people better for the future, especially in today’s uncertain world. The broad education that the co-curriculum can provide is better preparation for life in a society where an individual may change career several times in their life. Students must therefore have a fundamental grasp of multiple skills. For instance, athletes who had their career cut short due to mishaps might venture into business, having had co-curricular experience of entrepreneurship as part of their education. Speech and debate clubs might give a doctor or engineer the communication skills to move into broadcasting, teaching, or even politics. Placing more emphasis on the co-curriculum thus ensures a variety of possibilities for young people to choose from instead of being sidelined.
Most specialist professions still provide a range of career opportunities, without any need to compromise academic education by over-emphasis on non-academic activities. For example, athletes who have been injured in mishaps can continue their career in the same field but just in a different post. No longer could they play, but they could still coach or even give sports science lectures to aspiring super stars. And if someone does wish to radically switch career in mid-life, there are plenty of evening classes and continuing education opportunities to allow them to retrain.
Students have a right to a broad education. Why should a science student have to give up music, or ...
Students have a right to a broad education. Why should a science student have to give up music, or a social studies major not get opportunities for sport? Many children have talents in all sorts of different areas, and it is wrong to force them to specialise too early. A career is not the only part of an adult’s life – school needs to make sure they have interests and skills that will help them in their family and leisure lives too. Through equal balancing of academic and co-curriculum, however, the students have the chance to exercise their rights and the opportunity to be multi-talented. Lopsided individuals are not the key to the future, instead by recognising each individual by their talents there exists a higher possibility for young people to learn and to grow in their studies.
Choice works two ways. If co-curricular activities are so good, then students should have right to choose whether they wish to pursue them, rather than forcing them to give equal importance to something they do not wish to do. Through equalising the demands of academic and co-curriculums there exists the possibility that a student may drop out because he or she may not be able to cope with the demands of both sets of activities. The right to an education is best exercised by giving students the choice to decide what field their lives would like to be based on, and about how to pursue these aims.
Many students do not take advantage of the extra-curricular opportunities they are currently offered...
Many students do not take advantage of the extra-curricular opportunities they are currently offered. They may instead waste their time lazing around, or maybe even making trouble. These young people do not know what they are missing; if they could be made to try other activities they would surely enjoy them and gain a lot of benefit. If the co-curriculum was given formal importance, with students required to undertake at least one activity, then more people would try new things, and discover they like them.
Making extra-curricular activity compulsory will take the fun out of it and strip it of its benefits. Successful extra-curricular groups work precisely because the students have voluntarily chosen to be there. If some were forced to take part, they would be less enthusiastic and spoil the activity for the rest. And the more the activity is like ordinary school, the less attractive it will be to young people. Most of the personal development benefits associated with extra-curricular commitments – such as altruistic service, initiative-taking, and leadership skills – come from the voluntary nature of the activity. If that voluntary aspect is removed, then the benefits are lost too.
An ambitious co-curricular programme is quite affordable for schools and colleges of all kinds. Sta...
An ambitious co-curricular programme is quite affordable for schools and colleges of all kinds. State schools in Singapore and many public universities in the USA are able to offer strong co-curriculums, and elsewhere many state-funded institutions have thriving extra-curricular activities. Most co-curricular pursuits are not expensive to run, and those activities that might be more expensive, such as military cadet groups and science clubs, can often apply to outside agencies for funding. Staff often given their time free, because they believe the activities are worthwhile for the students and enjoyable for themselves to run, and many groups can also be supported by unpaid volunteers from the wider community.
Giving a greater place in education to the co-curriculum means that many more clubs and activities will have to be organised for students. This will be very expensive as it will require more staff and more resources to be paid for. This explains why most schools that currently offer a large co-curriculum are well-funded fee-paying institutions. Most ordinary schools, dependent on state-funding, will never be able to match this spending and could not aim to offer an ambitious co-curriculum. If they try, it will be at the expense of more important academic activities.
Many towns today do not have a strong civil society, and in more rural areas there may be no groups ...
Many towns today do not have a strong civil society, and in more rural areas there may be no groups at all for young people to join outside school. If schools and colleges do not provide opportunities for youngsters to broaden their experiences, then students will not get them at all. Boosting the place of the co-curriculum in schools is one way of addressing this weakness in modern society, as it will equip young people with the civic spirit, initiative and organising skills to set up their own clubs, teams and activity groups when they leave education. Finally, a successful co-curriculum often depends on building links between the school and the wider community, bringing local enthusiasts in to work with students, and sending students out to work on community projects, help in primary schools, perform for local audiences, etc.
Giving co-curricular activities greater importance in education can be harmful to civil society as a whole. There are many clubs, teams and groups available for young people already in most areas – e.g. Scouts, religious work, music, drama, sport, voluntary work in the community, etc. Why should these be ignored and only those done in school given academic credit of some kind? Often pursuits offered by schools end up replicating those already available in the wider community. For example, a school hockey team may deprive the local town’s hockey club of young players, while school adventure activities might weaken the community’s Scouting and Guiding groups. So a strong co-curriculum may have the effect of killing off lots of worthwhile community-based activities because they do not receive school credit. This would be a shame as a strong civil society is vital to a thriving democratic culture, but also because groups that involve people of all ages possess great social and educational value.
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