Physical education

Physical education, also known as Phys Ed., PE, gym, or gym class, and known in many Commonwealth countries as physical training or PT,[1] is an educational course related of maintaining the human body through physical exercises (i.e. calisthenics). It is taken during primary and secondary education and encourages psychomotor learning in a play or movement exploration setting to promote health.[2]


In Singapore, pupils from primary school through junior colleges are required to have two hours of PE every week, except during examination periods. Pupils may play games like football, badminton, captain ball, and basketball during most sessions. Unorthodox sports such as fencing, and skateboarding are occasionally played. In more prestigious secondary schools and in junior colleges, sports such as golf, tennis, shooting, and squash are played.

An annual compulsory fitness exam, NAPFA, is conducted in every school to assess pupils' physical fitness. This includes a series of fitness tests (pull-ups/inclined pull-ups for girls, standing broad jump, sit-ups, sit-and-reach and 1.6 km for primary [10- to 12-year-olds]/2.4 km for secondary and junior college levels [13- to 18-year-olds]). Students are graded by gold, silver, or bronze, or as fail. NAPFA for pre-enlistees serves as an indicator for an additional two months in the country's compulsory national service if they attain bronze or fail.

In Malaysia, pupils from primary schools to secondary schools are expected to do two periods or one hour of PE throughout the year except a week before examinations. In most secondary schools, games like badminton, sepak takraw, football, netball, basketball and tennis are available. Pupils may bring their own sports equipment to the school with the authorization of the teacher.

In the Philippines, PE is mandatory for all years, unless the school gives the option for a student to do the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme instead for fifth and sixth year. Some schools have integrated martial arts training into their physical education curriculum.[3][4][5][6][7]

In Indonesia, students ranging from kindergarten to high school have PE integrated with their curriculum. Kindergarten through grade 3 students have gymnastics. Starting from Grade 4, students are introduced to traditional martial arts Pencak Silat and some team games such as badminton, football, futsal, rounders, and basketball. Starting from junior high school, games such as basketball, volleyball, cricket, tennis, badminton, kho kho, and kabaddi are played. Drills and physical training are taught.


In Australia, physical education was first made an important part of the curriculum in government primary and secondary schools in 1981. The policy was outlined in a Ministerial Statement to the Victorian Legislative Assembly by the Minister for Educational Services, Norman Lacy MP on 17 September.[8]

North America

Left: A U.S. high school girls' water polo team (with their male coaches in background) posing with their trophy. Right: A U.S. university girl practising a difficult gymnastics manoeuvre.

In the United States, the goal of physical education is to "develop physically literate individuals who have the knowledge, skills and confidence to enjoy a lifetime of healthful physical activity."[9]

Zero Hour is a before-school physical education class first implemented by Naperville Central High School. In the state of Illinois this program is known as Learning Readiness P.E. (LRPE). It was based on research indicating that students who are physically fit are more academically alert and experience growth in brain cells or enhancement in brain development. NCHS pairs a PE class that incorporates cardiovascular exercise, core strength training, cross lateral movements, and literacy and math strategies with literacy and math classes that utilize movement to enhance learning and improve achievement.[10]

In British Columbia, Canada, the government has stated in the grade one curriculum that students must participate in physical activity daily five times a week. The teacher is also responsible for planning Daily Physical Activity (DPA), which is thirty minutes of mild to moderate physical activity a day, not including curriculum physical education classes. The curriculum requires students in grade one to be knowledgeable about healthy living. For example, they must be able to describe benefits of regular exercise, identify healthy choices that require them to be more physically active, and describe the importance of choosing healthy food.[11]

Ontario, Canada has a similar procedure in place. On October 6, 2005 the Ontario Ministry of Education (OME) implemented a Daily Physical Activity policy in elementary schools, grades 1–8. It requires that all students in grades 1 to 8, including those with special needs, be provided with opportunities to participate in a minimum of twenty minutes of sustained moderate to vigorous physical activity each school day during instructional time.[12]


In Portugal, pupils from primary school can optionally join PE as an extra-curricular activity. From middle school to secondary school, pupils must participate in PE classes for two hours per week.

Scotland has is a government supported requirement of a minimum of two hours of quality PE in primary and two periods (50 minutes each) in secondary S1 to S4. Recent funding has ensured most local authorities have employed PE lead officers to support the requirement. In fifth and sixth year, PE is voluntary in that personalisation and choice must be considered.

In England, pupils are expected to do two hours of PE a week in year 7, 8 and 9 and at least one in year 10 and 11.[13]

In Wales, pupils are expected to do two hours of PE a week.[14]

In Poland, pupils are expected to do at least three hours of PE a week during primary and secondary education.[15] Universities must also organise at least 60 hours of physical education classes at undergraduate courses.[16]

In Sweden it differs from municipality to municipality but generally, year 0 to 2 has 55 minutes PE a week. Year 3 to 6 has 110 minutes a week and year 7-9 has 220 minutes. In upper secondary school, all national programs have an obligatory course, Idrott och hälsa 1, containing 100 points of PE, which corresponds to 90-100 hours of PE during the course. (One point should be one hour, but due to holidays this isn't true.) The schools can spend these hours as they like during the three years students attend. Most schools put this course during the first year and offer the follow-up course, Idrott och hälsa 2, which also contains 100 points.

Physical education trends have developed recently to incorporate a greater variety of activities besides typical sports. Introducing students to activities like bowling, walking/hiking, or frisbee at an early age can help them develop good activity habits that will continue into adulthood.

Some teachers have begun to incorporate stress-reduction techniques such as yoga, deep breathing and tai chi. Tai chi, an ancient martial arts form focused on slow meditative movements, is a relaxation activity with many benefits. Studies have shown that it enhances muscular strength and endurance, as well as cardiovascular endurance. It also provides psychological benefits such as improving general mental health, concentration, awareness and positive mood.[17] It can be taught to any age student with little or no equipment, making it ideal for mixed ability and age classes. Tai chi can easily be incorporated into a holistic learning body and mind unit.[18]

Teaching non-traditional sports may also provide motivation for students to increase their activity, and can help them learn about different cultures. For example, while learning about lacrosse in the Southwestern United States, students might also learn about the Native American cultures of the Northeastern United States and Eastern Canada, where the sport originated. Teaching non-traditional (or non-native) sports provides an opportunity to integrate academic concepts from other subjects as well, which may now be required of many PE teachers.

PE is very important to students' health and overall well-being. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that over the past three years obesity in children (ages 2–5) and adolescents (ages 12–19) has doubled because of diet and lack of activity. Since the 1970s the number of children who are obese has tripled.[19]

SHAPE America's National Standards & Grade-Level Outcomes for K-12 Physical Education define what a student should know and be able to do as result of an effective physical education program.[20]

Another trend is the incorporation of health and nutrition into the physical education curriculum. The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 required that all school districts with a federally-funded school meal program develop wellness policies that address nutrition and physical activity.[21] While teaching students sports and movement skills, PE teachers are now incorporating short health and nutrition lessons into the curriculum. This is more prevalent at the elementary school level, where students do not have a specific Health class. Recently most elementary schools have specific health classes for students as well as physical education class. Due to the recent outbreaks of diseases such as swine flu, school districts are making it mandatory for students to learn about practicing good hygiene along with other health topics.

Today many states require Physical Education teachers to be certified to teach Health courses. Many colleges and universities offer both Physical Education and Health as one certification. This push towards health education is beginning at the intermediate level, including lessons on bullying, self-esteem and stress and anger management.

Research has shown that there is a positive correlation between brain development and exercising.[22]

Incorporating local indigenous knowledge into physical education can lead to many meaningful experiences and a way of learning about other cultures. For example, by incorporating traditional knowledge from varying indigenous groups from across Canada, students can be exposed to many concepts such as holistic learning and the medicine wheel. A unit could be focused on connecting to a place or feeling while outdoors, participating in traditional games, or outdoor environmental education. These types of lesson can easily be integrated into other parts of the curriculum and give Aboriginal students a chance to incorporate their culture in the local school community.[23]

Studies have been done in how physical education can help improve academic achievement. In a 2007 article, researchers found a profound gain in English Arts standardized testing test scores among students who had 56 hours of physical education in a year, compared to those who had 28 hours of physical education a year.[24]

In Brazil, the physical education curriculum is designed to allow school pupils a full range of modern opportunities, including sports. Martial arts classes, like wrestling in the United States, and Pencak Silat in France, Indonesia, and Malaysia, teach children self-defense and to feel good about themselves. The physical education curriculum is designed to allow students to experience at least a minimum exposure to the following categories of activities: aquatics, conditioning activities, gymnastics, individual/dual sports, team sports, rhythms, and dance.

In these areas, a planned sequence of learning experiences is designed to support a progression of student development. This allows kids through 6th grade to be introduced to sports, fitness, and teamwork in order to be better prepared for the middle and high school age. In 1975, the United States House of Representatives voted to require school physical education classes include both genders.[25] Some high school and some middle school PE classes are single-sex.

Technology use in physical education

New technology in education is playing a big role in classes. One of the most affordable and effective tools is a simple video recorder. With this, students can see the mistakes they're making in things such as a throwing motion or swinging form.[26] Studies show that students find this more effective than having someone try to explain what they are doing wrong, and then trying to correct it.[26] Educators may use technologies such as pedometers and heart rate monitors to make step and heart rate goals for students.[27]

Other technologies that can be used in a Physical Education setting include video projectors, GPS and games and gaming systems such as Kinect, Wii Fit and Dance Dance Revolution. Projectors can show students proper form or how to play certain games. GPS systems can be used to get students active in an outdoor setting, and active exergames can be used by teachers to show students a good way to stay fit in and out of the classroom setting.[28]

Another type of technology that is commonly used in Physical Education is the pedometer. This does not necessarily track how far a person is going, but lets them know the number of steps they are taking.[29][30]

See also


  1. The Daily Telegraph, 25 July 2008: "Physical training in schools should be compulsory, says leading head" Linked 2014-04-09
  2. Anderson, D. (1989). The Discipline and the Profession. Foundations of Canadian Physical Education, Recreation, and Sports Studies. Dubuque, IA: Wm. C. Brown Publishers.
  3. Archived September 30, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. Archived May 23, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. "Regional Commissions and Chapters International Modern Arnis Federation Philippines Mindanao Commission". Retrieved 2010-11-07.
  6. Archived January 15, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  7. "Sunday Inquirer Magazine: Life Lessons from Karate". 2008-12-14. Archived from the original on 2012-03-04. Retrieved 2010-11-07.
  8. "Ministerial Statement on New Directions in Physical Education". Retrieved 2015-08-13.
  9. "Shape America Home Page". Retrieved 2015-10-25.
  10. Enhancing P.E. in Illinois,
  11. BC curriculum package
  12. Archived December 12, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  13. "National curriculum in England: physical education programmes of study". GOV.UK. Department for Education. Retrieved 24 November 2016. This content is available under the Open Government Licence v3.0. © Crown copyright.
  14. "PE Provision in Secondary Schools" (PDF). Sports Council Wales. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  15. "Dz.U. 2002 nr 15 poz. 142. Rozporządzenie Ministra Edukacji Narodowej i Sportu z dnia 12 lutego 2002 r. w sprawie ramowych planów nauczania w szkołach publicznych." Internetowy System Aktów Prawnych. Retrieved 31 October 2010.
  16. "Standardy kształcenia dla poszczególnych kierunków studiów i poziomów kształcenia". Biuletyn Informacj Publicznej. Archived from the original on 20 November 2010. Retrieved 31 October 2010.
  17. "Tai Chi for Mental Health | Psych Central News". Psych Central News. 24 May 2010.
  18. Lu C. (2007 )
  19. The Importance of Physical Education. (n.d.). Retrieved April 1, 2016, from
  21. Pangrazi, Robert (2007) "Dynamic Physical Education for Elementary School Children" 15th ed.
  22. REYNOLDS, GRETCHEN. "Phys Ed: Can Exercise Make Kids Smarter?". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 April 2013.
  23. Lowen, G
  24. Tremarche, Pamela V.; Robinson, Ellyn M.; Graham, Louise B. (2007). "Physical Education and Its Effect on Elementary Testing Results". Physical Educator. 64 (2): 58–64.
  25. "Physical Education – Jul 18, 1975 – NBC – TV news: Vanderbilt Television News Archive". 1975-07-18. Retrieved 2015-08-13.
  26. 1 2 Wang, L., Myers, D., & Yanes, M. (2010). Creating student-centered learning experience through the assistance of high-end technology in physical education. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 37(4), 352–356.
  27. Woods, M., Karp, G., Goc, H., & Perlman, D. (2008). Physical educators' usage. Physical Educator, 65(2), 82–99
  28. Grimes, G. (2011, November 21). Interview by M Massey [Personal Interview].
  29. "Using pedometers to assess physical activity participation levels". 2010-04-01. Retrieved 2015-08-13.
  30. "PEC: Pedometer Lesson Activities". Retrieved 2015-08-13.

Further reading

  • Martha H. Verbrugge, Active Bodies: A History of Women's Physical Education in Twentieth-Century America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.
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