An initiative by Fatema Agarkar – an educationist and former India cricketer Ajit Agarkar, The Agarkar Centre for Excellence (ACE) is an organisation which emphasises on inculcating sports as a part of their daily school curriculum.
With a vision to develop, nurture and empower young minds with life skills, the ACE Sports Edu is taking baby steps towards their dream of building an India with balances education and sports simultaneously.
In an interview with The Bridge, the founder of ACE Sports Edu, Fatema Agarkar opened up about their organisation and the Indian education sector overall.
Fatema Agarkar with husband Ajit Agarkar and their son
Speaking about ACE, Fatema said that the ACE was started to provide good quality education to the children in the country and their support and encouragement sports just adds on the already existing ‘relevant curriculum’.
“ACE is about two very passionate individuals in their respective field coming together with the Agarkar Centre for Excellence for Education and Sports. For the education vertical we do everything from relevant curriculum design, best practices, progressive thoughts, research etc. The sports angle just adds on to that and complements it.”
She said that instead of stressing more and more on success in sports, ACE through sports exposure to its students focuses more on their fitness and overall development.
“In this country, we only want a Tendulkar or Virat Kohli. We don’t think of sports as fitness, life-skill, learning, important foundational blocks which is what the National Education Policy (NEP) is talking about. ACE is thinking about this in a way, where it is okay if I may not make it to the national team, but I am good and if there is one thing the pandemic has thought us is that fitness is important. People are now investing in healthy eating and healthy lifestyle, which we should have done way back. So, ACE is about that – sports exposure, age appropriate learning, every child can play, every child should play,” Fatema said.
She asserted that in the coming times anything which can be repeated will easily be duplicated by technology and only skilled careers will remain relevant. The educationist also maintained that with the development of sports in the country, fields like sports management, sports agencies and others will see a tremendous rise.
“If you look at any of the UN reports or any of the industry reports about education, very clearly the careers of tomorrow are alternatives. Anything that can be repetitive is going to become duplicated through technology. The careers of tomorrow are going to be skilled careers and everyone knows them. I think there has been a movement with the number of leagues that have started in our country, lots of opportunities whether its kabaddi, kho-kho or legends like Sania Mirza or PV Sindhu who have led the way with their achievements and schools have also started putting infrastructure in place because they recognise that this is going to put their schools on map. I think the industry is doing their bit and again I don’t have only make it to the playing 11. I could probably play at the national level, state level or even the league level. I can also alternate between the ancillary services. So, there is sports management, physios, sports agents and agencies so there are a lot of opportunities even if you don’t make it but you have to play the game to understand and these are the booming industries.”
Talking about education during the pandemic, Fatema said that ACE has always supported the use of technology since the very beginning and that teachers in the country were forced to up-skill themselves in order to keep their jobs.
“For the last twenty years that I have been in the education sector, we have only spoken about volatile world. We were all preparing for a world that we have no control over just like what we are experiencing now. While we spoke about it we did not have systems in place. Remote learning actually started in the 1800s, by 2000s many progressive countries across the world were already adopting blended learning. So, when we were caught off guard, it was simply because we had not thought that it will hit us the way it has. For the longest time I have seen teachers resist technology including the likes of Google sheets. But, very quickly in three months everybody learnt, I know they were forced into it but the skilling up happened because fundamentally there are inherent skills in these teachers. So, the difference now is that those who can’t match pace will have to take a step back.”
She claimed that blended learning is the future and technology will have to play a big role in the education sector during the years to come.
“Quite frankly, the world of tomorrow is going to have blended learning. So, I worry when parents disapprove of technology. This year would have been a year of absolute disaster if not for technology. This is the future. Blended learning will stay. Whether we get the vaccine or not, at least the next year we will see a combination of online and physical learning.”