Movement is life – that’s for certain. Maybe evolution has explicitly arranged that humans can only survive and evolve when they can move. If you take a closer look into the world of sports science – and also other divisions – you will quickly learn: there is enough and useful knowledge that can be applied. The great thing here is: there are also corresponding experts.
School subject sport 21.0 – why this headline? Well, we are living in the 21st century. In a knowlegde society in which almost anything is perfected innovatively. This development is always in motion. Thus, the deciding questions of this blog post come down to this:
How can schools manage to transfer physical education into the 21st century and satisfy the general movement abilities of children and teenagers of today? Can they even do this alone?
The depth of this topic is almost endless. This blog post can only give a quick insight into a possible development approach. But one thing is certain: if the school subject sport is to be given a new character then cooperations are the solution.
A few statistical facts
According to a statistic (effective 2014) around 13 million children and teenagers live in Germany (1). Of these, 11 million go to school (school year 2014/2015) and the rest is – according to logic – placed in Kindergartens (2). The interesting number: there are currently 800,000 employed teachers in Germany and certainly not all of those are subject teachers for sports.
The current situation of school sport
If you reflect on the numbers some more it will certainly occur to you that there are more pupils than teachers. This, however, isn’t the general problem. And yet, the numbers of children and teenagers, of which the age-specific movements need to be fostered, are huge and the current amount of teachers in Germany will never be able to cover this carefully and in a subject-specific manner – with the result that individual movement stimulation is simply missing.
Do we need it?
Do schools have to offer this?
Der kleine Lionel says: yes, but they are not the only important thing. It is merely a subjective observation but the biggest part of our children and teenagers is in the process of losing their natural desire for exercise completely. Children and teenagers spend one third of the day in school and that’s for five days of the week. There is mostly one double period of sport per week that is supposed to work off the requirements of the curriculum. Asking how reasonable individual aspects of the curiculum for sport actually are would go beyond the scope of this blog post.
Looking at the cumulative movement time in school is horrifying. Children and teenagers spend much more time in school sitting than they do moving actively which is certainly not in a healthy relation to the amount of time they spend in school each day. This picture is mirrored in everyday life: they sit a lot. Thus, school and school sport are clearly no role model to increase or even only maintain the desire for movement of the pupils. Additionally, the performance level in one class is as diverse (heterogen) as it can possibly be and that simply cannot be accounted for by only one teacher.
Let’s cherish the five most important points:
- The number of pupils greatly exceeds the number of teachers.
- School sport taylored to individual needs is almost impossible (see 1).
- One sport teacher per class is too few, especially in order to fulfill point 2.
- Children and teenagers move way too little in their school time each week.
- The contents of the sport curriculum are to be seriously questioned for a number of reasons.
One possible development approach
In the following, I would like to propose a possible development approach that tries to find solutions for the listed problems. The main focus lies on finding solutions to the points 2-5.
In the estimation of Der kleine Lionel, one thing is for certain: if you want to get down to the root of the problem you have to include a second professional into school sports. The reasons why this hasn’t already been realized and the number of sport teachers has not yet been increased are certainly rooted in economic considerations – more teachers are obviously more expensive for the government. That a second teacher would benefit the school sport in various way, however, is out of the question.
Where can this second professional come from and who finances this? The second part of this question is sadly out of the focus for this blog but it is still very important to bring school sport into the 21st century. The answer to the first part of the question, however, is: this professional can come from certain (athletic) institutions, facilities, associations, clubs, or certain autonomous divisions so there are countless cooperations with a wide array of experts possible. Yes, there is already the attempt to expand the school’s own sport program with sport groups. But we should think a few steps further than that.
The concept relies on a very tight cooperation. In it, all questions concerning the school subject sport in a sport science-related sense will be addressed in a close exchange between school and cooperation partner. The schools would basically become independent and take their development into their own hands – a thought that doesn’t seem very likely at this moment, does it?
For the subject itself this would first and foremost mean that two competent adults would look after the pupils which means that more attention is given to the group – and at the same time to every individual. This would make sense from a socio-educational point of view as well as from a psychological. Secondly, the heterogenous classes could be instructed more professionally qualified, more individually and better tailored to the great differences in athletic abilities. Which brings us right to the next important question:
How does the general framework look and what is going to be taught?
The two deciding segments
The general framework is built out of two segments: basic movement patterns and (sport-)specific movement patterns. The contents will certainly not fit into one double period per week. The segments have to be integrated into the schedule individually (in the form of modules or specific courses).
The basic movement patterns should form the foundation. They include the most important human movement patterns that most children and teenagers of today are lacking: pushing and pulling movements; movements that stretch/open the hips; squat movements, ‘loaded carries’ (carrying, shoving, dragging, holding); rolling, turning, and crawling movements; throwing; jumping; swinging; walking; running; sprinting and general hand-leg-coordination.
Since children and teenagers can better understand and assess their body when they do it in the form of games, it has to be ensured that there is a second segment to the first segment. This second segment is concerned with (sport-)specific movement patterns (from group and individual sports) that are learned while palying the game itself.
Movement is life – especially for children and teenagers!
The cooperation with external sport professionals will be the future for the school subject sport if children and teenagers are still to enjoy sportive activities and movement. You could even think of mentoring programs where certain facilities support a whole age group of a school in all required contents of the physical education.
The scope of this blog post is not wide enough to cover all necessary aspects in depth. Many questions are still left unanswered that are deeply connected to our school system. It is a whole barrage of questions that clearly show how entangled and inflexible the topic physical education in this whole system seems to be. This is more than unfortunate and absolutely unnecessary. It is essentially simply about the healthy promotion of exercise for adolescents because:
Where are the children that climb on trees?
Where are the teenagers that turn the smallest patch of green into a football field?
Where do children and teenagers spend most of their time?
The answer to the last question: in school. And thus, especially school should pose as the showpiece platform to renew the urge to move in children and teenagers. It has been scientifically proven for a long time that physically active children can achieve better cognitive performances which shows that in each and every one of them – even apart from sport – there is potential that is just waiting to be activated and this, in turn, can not only be beneficial for the individual development but which can be helpful and useful for our society as a whole.
It is clear that something has to be done. There have got to be more experts for children and teenager sports in schools that support the corresponding sport teachers. Additionally, a new system is necessary that encourages sport rather than treating it like the unwanted step child that is already a hopeless case. In the end, the following questions remain after this blog post:
What part of our current school sport system is useful?
Especially: what is useful AND effective for the physical development of humans growing up?
All people that can contribute to this, whether it is in a political, sport-scientific, psychological or educational way, carry a responsibility in this matter.
Because one thing is for certain: movement is life – especially for children and teenagers!
Quellen und Literaturtipps:
(1) Statista (2015). Anzahl der minderjährigen Kinder in Familien in Deutschland von 2000 bis 2014 (in 1.000) (Number of underage children in families in Germany from 2000 to 2014 (in thousands). Accessed on Dec. 5th, 2015 at http://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/197783/umfrage/minderjaehrige-kinder-in-deutschland/ back to text
(2) Statistisches Bundesamt (2015). Schulen (Schools). Accessed on Dec. 5th, 2015 at https://www.destatis.de/DE/ZahlenFakten/GesellschaftStaat/BildungForschungKultur/Schulen/Schulen.html back to text