Sunday, December 25, 2011

Most Frivolous Media Campaign Of 2011

Even the most badly made documentary film is acceptable if it helps reveal some facts and realities that surround us. News channels should be doing that, but instead it has become a trend to launch meaningless campaigns. Some of these campaigns are simply senseless, totally bankrupt of logic and the channels will keep patting themselves on their backs for having created a miracle. There are campaigns such as ‘India Positive’ by CNN-IBN, and ‘Amazing Indians’ by TimesNow which at least showcase the good work of fellow citizens and are welcome. I am not one who supports sugared sponsors of  any campaign concerning kids but can even accept Coca-Cola sponsoring some school campaign if it leads to better classrooms, toilets and other facilities at schools that do not get much attention otherwise. But ‘Marks For Sports’ (MFS)? What exactly is that? Well, that is the brilliant tomfoolery of NDTV, the channel that specialises in frivolous ‘sponsored’ campaigns

"The country needs to take sports more seriously and not just as a hobby. As part of Marks For Sports, I hope to strive to do just that" - Ranbir Kapoor. Hmmm! That’s the brand ambassador for MFS speaking. Nothing wrong in that statement except that it would have sounded better coming from some accomplished sportsperson, say like Kapil Dev or Abhinav Bindra or Saina Nehwal. Ranbir Kapoor would have been preferable for a ‘Marks for drama’ campaign. I’m not kidding, many schools in the world do have ‘Drama’ as an optional subject. Harrison Ford, the biggest box office star of all time, got through high school because of his ‘drama’ grades since he wasn’t so good at regular subjects. So what is this MFS all about? If you were to go by NDTV’s own explanation it is essentially a “Fit India Movement”! So why call it ‘marks’ for sports? Marks in a school represent scores in an exam in any subject like Math or History or Chemistry. So the campaign title itself is meant to mislead.

Of course, it helps that there are many who will join the bandwagon simply because it sounds so good and noble. And the list gets impressive. Sample this from the Business Standard (March 16): “To launch the initiative, Development & Campaign Ambassador, Ranbir Kapoor joined Dr. Prannoy Roy, Chairman, NDTV and Mr. Dharmesh Jain, Chairman & MD of Nirmal Lifestyle in New Delhi. Also present at the launch were legendary cricketer MAK Pataudi, Olympic boxer Vijender Singh, India’s Football Captain Baichung Bhutia, Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist Gagan Narang and seven times World Billiards and Snooker Champion Pankaj Advani”. Nirmal Lifestyle? Well, that’s not a wellness company in any sense. It’s a real estate company that probably builds ‘green and healthy’ malls and luxury residences.

Add to the campaign visits to various schools across the country, interview students, principals, teachers and you have a concoction that wants you to believe MFS is a great idea. Further, add some silly pledging exercise which gets over a million signatures to a petition seeking MFS. On the same page as the million signatures, scroll down, you will find votes for reasons why kids don’t get enough time to play – in all 11 votes!(at the time of writing). While MFS may sound like a GREAT idea or innovation it is fundamentally flawed and disingenuous. Schools exist for a system of formal ‘academic education’ and other activities are ‘extra-curricular’. The curriculum adopted by schools adheres to a Board or body that certifies scholastic achievements through exams by giving marks. The exams are common to all students in a class and in a subject. How in the world did NDTV come up with the silly idea that students should be given marks for sports? Is ‘sports’ a singular subject? A variety of physical activities and games are collectively called ‘sports’. How in the world did so many intelligent people in sports and education and govt come to support this stupid idea? Other than a feel-good exercise and a commercial transaction this campaign is nothing but frivolous at best.

As a School-education professional who has interacted with over 2000 schools across India I can vouch for the fact that even some of the best schools do not have adequate grounds for sporting activities. If ‘sports’ were indeed to be a subject how do you score marks for different students who are talented and skilled in different sports such as Hockey, Cricket or Football? To all this, NDTV even reported somewhere that Maharashtra had re-implemented ‘Sports & Physical Fitness’ as a regular subject from 2012-13 perhaps implying a consequence of its campaign. Fact is, CBSE has been already offering the course for quite a few years for all their schools. The course is not about actual sports on the field but a subject that teaches theories and rules for various sports. It is tested as an academic subject and not as performance on the sports ground.

If the campaign was merely intended as a ‘physical fitness’ campaign then it wasn’t even necessary. Genuine schools in India do provide adequate time for physical exercise and activities, including sporting competitions. There are schools that even teach Yoga. CBSE goes beyond that, it even has guidance courses for students to deal with ‘Adolescence and related problems’. There is a difference between physical fitness and sporting excellence. Unfortunately, NDTV confuses the two. Channels like NDTV and CNN-IBN do not tire in ridiculing someone like Baba Ramdev who conducts mass Yoga campaigns for a healthy nation. If sporting excellence has to come from students the most urgent need is that of specialist coaches. India needs specialised schools that coach the coaches. Furthermore, schools typically try to specialise in a variety of sports instead of focussing on a few in which their students possess talent and can excel. This site somewhat explains the process of schools specialising in certain sports

Well, here’s the best part. Go to any school in India you will usually find a Basketball court. Wait, if the school doesn’t have a ground they will at least have half a court, or just one Basketball board in some corner. To the thousands of teachers I have met I have often asked the question – why Basketball? This is a game usually dominated by very tall people and does not offer a great career for Indians. You’re gonna laugh at the explanation I have mostly received – “It helps increase the height of children”! If that were true then NDTV’s frivolous campaign does help in “increasing the stupidity” by Marks for Sports! That's a good reason why news channels should first attempt excellence in news reporting and analysis rather than mindless social campaigns.


  1. once again a prolific article. apart from experts in sports we need to change mind set of parents who still think that playing a particular game wouldn't yield a good profession!and discourage their children to play and force them to focus only on science & maths as if they are the only option to live!
    I have encountered many schools who take interview of parents for admission of there children. If parents are not much educated or surprisingly cannot speak english their child is denied admission in school! can someone explain what has parents speaking english or their education has to do with their childs education? are we still living in victorian era?? where only upper class people used to get admission in a high class school!! why doesnt media do something about it? why don't they question the authority on this senseless criterias. may be they have same mentality as themselves are product of such school.

  2. Hey Ravinar Why not any comment about the the Clean Shaven Men campaign which was taken by CNN-IBN. That was mentioned in one of your articles. That would have been a great addition to this article as it is also the most stupid thing done by the Media persons rather than showing the "Truth" as they keep on harping about

  3. @Ravinar

    Well argued. Just a small point.

    You wrote:

    While MFS may sound like a GREAT idea or innovation it is fundamentally flawed and disingenuous. Schools exist for a system of formal ‘academic education’ and other activities are ‘extra-curricular’. The curriculum adopted by schools adheres to a Board or body that certifies scholastic achievements through exams by giving marks. The exams are common to all students in a class and in a subject. How in the world did NDTV come up with the silly idea that students should be given marks for sports? Is ‘sports’ a singular subject?

    Sam write:

    Schools need not exists only for academics. In a purely technical sense, Marks can be given for "Sports", but they need to used ONLY for evaluating "Sporting Abilities".

    It is the mixing of the issues which is the danger, and in our opinion, an underhand trick. If these guys want to encourage "Sports", they can start "private" sports schools and institute "sports scholarship", to which Ranbir and NDTV can invest (donate) their wealth. However that they won't do! Like typical commies they want their shitty ideas to be implemented using tax payers money!

    So MFS is flawed and dangerous not because it is asking sports to be evaluated like any other subject, but because

    1. First of all these people want "government initiative and intervention" typical of commies and socialists and secularists, etc.


    2. They want "marks for sports" to be used for "academic qualification"!

    Please comment.

  4. @ Samalochaka

    I disagree. Schools PRIMARILY exist ONLY for academic achievements that are tested and measured across the board. Other activities are difficult to measure between one school to another, except in informal competitions. Being in a group it is obvious that many activities other than academics may happen but those are neither mandatory nor uniform across schools.

    It may not be the best example but it's like measuring a business unit's performance by its CSR rather than business results. Whether NDTV or Ranbir invest in a sports school or not, this campaign is basically to score cheap points while making money through emotional nonsense.

  5. @Ravinar:

    Corporate Social Responsibility may be the latest fad and we do not know much about that. However, we agree with the general drift mentioned in the second paragraph.

    In our opinion "schools" exist for "teaching" and function, loosely speaking, on the basis of a kind of mutual agreement between the representatives of the "school" and the "pupils" (or the guardians of the pupils). The "content" of what is taught (whether science, arts or sports) does not qualify one to be termed a school while disqualifying some others.

    A measurement methodology conducted and accepted across the board is related to standardization, and standardization can happen in any field of expertise. Fine Arts may be more subjective than say "natural sciences" but an art-school is as much a school as a science-school is. And in this sense a sports-school is a school as much. And as such there are "Sports Academies" which award "certificates" which are "accepted" across the board.

    You may insist that it is only a matter of opinion, however, the proposition that "schools primarily exist for academic achievements" is largely untenable if you mean that "sporting skills/abilities" do not come within the purview of "academic achievements".

    We also clarify that we are opposed to pupils getting admitted into Physics curriculum (say) through "sports quota" as much as pupils getting admitted into High-Jump curriculum (say) through "backward-caste quota". Nor are we supporting or defending NDTV or Ranbir in any way.

    Our main point is that "sports" can be "taught" in "schools" and "marks" can be awarded in "sports" as much like in other human endeavors which are taught and evaluated.

    One may say that "Sports-Evaluation" will need to be "standardized", but to say that "Sports-Evaluation" can not be standardized is somewhat far fetched.

    May be if you could give some specific examples to illustrate your point, it might help.

  6. @ Samalochaka

    You are asking me for examples... but since you are the one indicating that sports evaluation can be standardised it should be up to you to show examples and how it can be done.

    And BTW I am talking of regular schools and not those specialised in sports or arts. You may find these at a higher level but usually not at the high school level. The quota part is not an issue of discussion in my post, so I am not looking into that aspect at all.

  7. @ Samalochaka

    There is an important point you are completely missing. What the NDTV campaign recommends is marks for sports in 'regular' schools and not in specialised sports schools. Also, schools exist not just for teaching but for 'learning'. Some of the academic knowledge and skills that are part of most curricula are universal for the age groups that attends schools.

  8. @Ravinar:

    Please see the following wikipedia entry for details and examples including criticisms.

    We have already clarified that we are neither supporting nor defending NDTV-Ranbir perspective at all. So please do not use that as the defining context, or you also have the choice to close this discussion as being "out of context" though.

    We suppose by "regular schools" you mean those schools which are accredited to "government boards". Please correct us if we have misunderstood. The wikipedia entry mentions examples of government boards as well.

    However, we are taking a much broader definition, and are taking "schools" to mean an institution where "relatively quite highly skilled humans" teach/train "pupils, i.e. those who are seeking to learn". Whether the institution is state funded or private funded is immaterial for the moment.

    Our points are:

    1. Sporting skills can be taught and learnt (like other skills).

    2. Sporting skills can be evaluated (like other skills).

    3. Thus it can be a part/whole/elective/specialization in "schools" and "marks" can be assigned for these skills as well.

  9. @ Samalochaka..

    Yes, consider it closed. You claim sports evaluation can be standardised but havent offered any example.. Therefore... the context is lost.

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