Do co-curricular activities complement learning outcomes?

We have discussed, assessed and compared contemporary curricula being taught in schools across the country in our earlier articles. We have also touched upon several co-curricular and extracurricular activities and developmental aspects ascribed to them. In this article, I will analyze the correlation between curricular and co-curricular activities.



To begin with, let’s understand what is a school curriculum? The curriculum is a pedagogical device that focuses on teaching, learning, and assessment. It is framed to give directions to the instruction in schools making it objective. In a school setting a well-designed curriculum is indispensable and serves the purpose best when informed by the developments in the fields of science, society, and culture. The curriculum, however, cannot claim to cover in entirety the developmental needs of children. Pedagogy also includes the methodology i.e. the way in which the curriculum is implemented and it also involves socialization of the individual into a productive part of society.

Now, the above explanation also implies that co-curricular activities are also pedagogical tools. If they are put into a state of disuse a gap in learning is liable to be created. In schools, co-curricular activities are pursued by the students and teachers promote them. The issue is that they are compartmentalized and the idea that there is a live connection between the curricular and the co-curricular is not realized at all.

This unacknowledged connection between the curricular and co-curricular is what I will try to probe into in this article.


Perceiving the ‘co-curricular’ rightly

Development of identity and Personality development are complex processes and are marked by their subjective nature. For the natural growth of an individual personality, co-curricular activities are warranted. They give form and expression to the individual potential and help it manifest.

Every school has an inventory of co-curricular activities and it is followed by varying enthusiasm in different schools. I propose, without any claim to originality, that the co-curricular complements the curricula. It does so by enhancing the receptiveness of the children and giving space to the attributes of personality that are highly prone to lay dormant in want of exposure. The manifestation of individual qualities is an end in itself but they are also meant to better the academic performance and increasing affinity towards curriculum. The increased interest decidedly translate into discipline in the classroom.

I will not tread into contesting that the relationship between the curricular achievement and co-curricular participation is complex to comprehend and it requires quite a shift of perspective to view it in this way.

Of course, activities like debates and elocution competitions will qualify easily as helpers of academic aptitude, dramatics also finds its supporters as it is considered good for imagination and curbing introversion.  Sports on the other hand, when connected to academic achievement give rise to something that sounds counterintuitive. However, it is not half as surprising as it is made to be. The point is that when the time, which is limited, is invested in any activity it leaves lesser for the others. But the value of sports in producing intellectual stimulation is discounted. And this stimulation is not limited to chess or some other reputedly intellectual indoor sports. The potential to enhance interest in mental pursuits is present in all team sports as well as individual athletic events and gymnastics.


Now, what am I basing it on?

To begin with, let’s say it’s the theory of multiple intelligences. It says that intelligence has been historically misinterpreted as linguistic and mathematical-logical ability hence the IQ standards are biased towards these abilities and are therefore inconsistent with the changing world. The theory of multiple intelligences has been discussed in our previous blog post however, a glimpse into it is warranted to bolster our case. Spatial intelligence which is one of the designated intelligence is stimulated when children draw or sketch, similarly musical intelligence is at play when music is pursued solo or in a band. Sports appeal to something termed bodily-kinesthetic intelligence and dramatics especially bring forth interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence.

The point that makes the entire gamut of intelligence inclusive is that they do not work in a silo, they work in unison. An intelligence might lead while an activity is being pursued but it becomes cerebrally productive when it is planned and organized activity. This makes a strong case for the promotion of co-curricular activities in schools in an organized fashion and with the conviction that perusal of these activities is linked to the development of personality directly and indirectly to the grades.

It is only fair to have a look at the activities which are very close to academics. We have Math and Science Olympiads where mathematical-logical intelligence dominate. The quizzes, on the other hand, are quite demonstrative of various intelligence. Participants with an inclination towards sports will do well when quizzed about sports, similarly, there is a likelihood of those with musical intelligence to be knowledgeable about performing arts and so on.


The tradition of giving extra-curricular their due

The realization that co-curricular activities are equally important predates the scientific assessment of the brain, they even date back to the period when psychology was not even considered a discipline.

Educational philosophies like Montessori and Waldorf are very categorical about the child’s connection with the environment. Some interpretation of these philosophies will state that they use the extra-curricular to teach the curriculum, and they will not be off the mark.

This is not to say that the emphasis those aforementioned and other educational philosophies put on extra-curricular is relevant for preschooling or early childhood education. The practices derived from these schools of educational thoughts are relevant throughout the schooling and in certain cases, adolescence is particularly pointed out as the period when co-curricular activities gain extra importance.

With schools claiming ‘all-round development’ as their aim, it is expected that it will reflect in the personalities of the students and the appealing term will not end up being a cliché as it is seemingly headed towards becoming owing to the lopsided school management practices.


Vinod Kakumanu

Vinod Kakumanu

Founder & Consultant - School Serv

Vinod Kakumanu heads a team of school services professionals and is an independent commentator on Indian school education scenario. Vinod has assisted school promoters establish 35+ schools besides providing ancillary services to over 1000 schools across India. He envisions a future where quality education is made available to every child of the country. The focus he places on the quality of the deliverables and customer satisfaction has made him renowned in the field of K-12 school education.

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