New courses have been developed to train teachers to teach physical education and to encourage learner participation in physical activities
the Teacher reporter
Recent research paints a worrying picture of increasing obesity among schoolchildren. The studies attribute this to a number of factors, such as poor diet and sedentary lifestyles. In addition, they highlight lack of physical activities as children these days spend most of their time watching TV or playing online games.
During the revision of the curriculum after 1994, physical education (PE) was removed as a stand-alone subject and incorporated into life orientation, leading to a decline in physical education participation. But this has since been reviewed and PE has been re-introduced as part of new national Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (Caps) curriculum. But the problem is that majority of teachers are not properly trained to teach PE.
Embury Institute for Teacher Education has identified this gap and designed unique courses to equip teachers with the skills to sufficiently engage learners during PE classes. Johan Human, Embury’s chief executive, says these courses aim to effectively communicate the concept of PE as a subject, just as the new Caps curriculum intends. “For learners, the importance of curriculum-based PE training cannot be undervalued, and this starts with enthusiastic, knowledgeable and qualified teachers.”
The change in PE
Human says the Caps curriculum puts a significant emphasis on movement, and that the aim of the courses is to train teachers how to “break down” movements, such as skipping, jumps and forward rolls. He said while some may dismiss this as elementary, it is a fact that some learners struggle with basic physical activities or loco-motor movements — skills that set the foundation for future development. Embury’s training, he added, aims to foster a love of movement amongst teachers and learners, and a leap from the sedentary lifestyle that is detrimental to their health and wellbeing.
To help deal with challenges such as large classes and lack of sport facilities, PE teachers are taught to create “workstations” where activities happen within small groups in any space that is available. Each session starts with a warm-up routine and ends with a cool-down. Activity will shift towards the different workstations, where learners (irrespective of body type) are engaged for the entire session and are continuously moving, and instilling in learners a positive attitude about active lifestyles. Embury’s PE training, claims Human, fits in neatly with 21st century teaching, with workstations being part of the “flipped classroom” teaching approach.
Why PE is important
The benefits of PE, if taught correctly, range from good skeletal structure and posture, improved gross and fine motor skills to the development of core muscles. It can also influence learners’ concentration skills, who are often less fidgety and more focused during class. “Without them knowing, learners are taught social, team and leadership skills, and gain an understanding of their own space and balance, while also addressing visual and auditory processes for the individual,” notes Human.
The courses cater to full-time students and teachers. Teachers can take PE as a subject in the Foundation Phase and as a major in Intermediate Phase Teaching. There are three short courses offered as part of Embury’s continued professional teacher development programmes for schools wishing to prepare teachers to present PE classes masterfully. Embury has also formed a training partnership with the Physical Education Institute of South Africa (Peisa).
A non-profit company, the institute was established to reinforce the instruction of PE and to act as a catalyst for promoting it in schools. According to Norman Mphake, founding director of Peisa, Embury shares the institute’s ideal of a country where all learners, of all abilities, will increase their participation in well-organised, curriculum-orientated PE. “It has been an arduous journey to get PE re-introduced into the curriculum and the impressive PE training at Embury forms part of our broader vision for PE training in South Africa,” says Mphake.