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Physical education in schools

Physical education in schools

Providing physical education both inside and outside of schools is crucial in helping young people to learn and develop life skills.

Physical education in the school system

A number of crucial components to the delivery of quality education have been identified by UNICEF. These include sport and opportunities for play, consistent with the rights of the child to optimum development.

Despite recognition of the positive impact sport has on education and child development, physical education is being increasingly challenged within education systems across the world.
Challenges include a decrease in:

  • The amount of time allocated to physical education
  • The number of trained staff
  • The amount of training provided for physical education teachers, and spending on resources required to deliver physical education in schools

Girls and young people with disabilities face additional barriers, which limit (and in many cases prevent) participation in physical education and sport in many countries.

Whilst physical education systems are vastly different across the world, a recent study conducted in 126 countries indicated that the marginalisation of physical education is near universal.

A large number of researchers are focusing on comparative studies in physical education and there have been examples of good practice, however, the situation in developing countries and regions has changed little in the past decade. This has serious implications for access to holistic and quality education for young people, particularly those living in developing countries.

Opportunities in community sport programmes

It is important to note that in some countries where physical education is minimal or non-existent within the school system, children and young people may access sport and physical activity through community programmes.

These may be introduced by community clubs, a range of other organisations, or through unstructured or casual games and play. Given the very poor rates of school attendance, opportunities for physical education and sport outside of schools can also provide educational advantages to children and young people.

Challenges with enrolment in school

For the period 2005 to 2006, UNICEF estimated that 90 million children were not enroled in school. Net secondary school enrolment is only 52 percent for boys and 44 percent for girls, compared to 90 percent enrolment rate for both boys and girls in developed countries. Young people in developing countries therefore face an uncertain future given these reports on school enrolment.