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Physical Education (PE) and sports has received an enormous boost with the attention provided by regional Ministers of Education in the last two weeks.
Locally, the Minister of Education indicated that from September 2014, PE will become part of the ongoing assessment (40 per cent) of students in standards four and five preparing for their final Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) which will account for 60 per cent. Regionally, the CXC has announced the introduction of five ‘new generation of CAPE subjects’ which includes PE and sports.
One of the intended major benefits of these new subjects is the creation of a cadre of skilled personnel who will have the opportunity to stimulate growth in existing industries and or create new ones.
The opportunity and encouragement to participate in PE is enshrined in the UN Declarations of the Rights of the Child 1959. Therefore, once PE is properly introduced, taught and encouraged, children stand to benefit tremendously.
It has been well documented (for example, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, USA) that PE offers children numerous physical, mental, academic and social benefits which can only contribute to their individual and collective development. Therefore, PE at the primary school level is an important forerunner for encouraging interest in PE and Sports at the CAPE level.
At the CAPE level, the CXC must be applauded for finally recognising the need to treat PE and Sports as more than recreational activities. Politicians, administrators, academics and even the business community have for too long neglected PE and sports as serious activities necessitating systematic scholarly attention as well as the potential social and economic benefits. And this has happened over the years against a backdrop of consistent stellar performances in many sporting disciplines such as cricket, athletics, netball and cycling.
As it is said, better late than never, and PE and sports can provide a potential foundation for the establishment of a sport industry that will incorporate such areas as the development of athletes, coaches, sports researchers, dietitians, PE lecturers and teachers, sport agents/managers, sport lawyers, sports medicine doctors, sports officials, sports planners and administrators among others.
The objectives of the CXC and regional governments are well intentioned, however, success of these programmes require not only technical expertise but also cultural and sociological changes in the way we as a people view PE and Sports.
Firstly, parents, teachers and the wider non-sporting community have to see PE and sports as being significant for human development.
They have to accept that PE and sports are not just recreational activities and are no less important as the academic subjects which are used for assessing students’ ‘smartness’ or ‘brightness’. Easier said than done!
Hence, for PE and sports to be effective at both the primary and secondary school level, students have to be taught by persons who have not only technical training in PE but also the passion for the subject—just as someone teaching sociology, mathematics or biology. In other words the established view that once someone played sports he or she is automatically a “good” coach inter alia has to be tossed out.
Additionally, the specialised skillset of the PE teacher becomes even more important as studies have shown that social, economic and cultural factors influence students’ participation in sports and physical activities.
The aforementioned points are reinforced by Carole Beckford, lead facilitator for CAPE Physical Education syllabus. She indicated that one of the biggest challenges the introduction of PE and Sports faces is the lack of regional scholarly material. Consequently, in the initial phase there is going to be a heavy reliance on foreign material in the syllabus. It is hoped that PE teachers, researchers at UWI, UTT and other regional academic and sport research institutions such as Caribbean Sport Development Agency (CSDA) would take up this challenge and offer future students Caribbean material for their skills development.
Caribbean sporting talent has to be rationally and efficiently monetised to the social and economic benefit of the region. The inclusion of PE and sports in the school syllabus is a start in the right to direction to achieving this goal.