Friday, November 11, 2005

Global need for a strong foundation (11/11/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 11/11/2005
Headline : Global need for a strong foundation

THE lack of emphasis on physical education (PE) and sports in schools is
a global problem.
This was the shocking revelation at the International Conference on
"Sports and Education" in Bangkok last week, held in conjunction with
this year being declared by the United Nations as the International Year
of Sports and Physical Education.
Malaysian delegates to the Conference from the Ministries of Sports and
Education, Olympic Council of Malaysia, National Sports Council,
Malaysian Association for Physical Education, Sport Science and Fitness
and senior university lecturers were flabbergasted to learn it was a
global problem.
However, the problem prevalent in other countries should not be any
small comfort for Malaysians, as they must join forces to find a solution.
It is without doubt the Malaysian delegates could relate to the global
problems, such as lack of playing fields in schools, lack of equipment
and facilities, shortage of qualified/quality PE teachers and the limited
time allocation for PE in schools and lack of prominence given to sports
in general in schools.
In addition, there were other concerns like lack of parental
involvement, children not interested in some sports, the lack of
maintenance of facilities, time taken to repair or replace the wear and
tear of facilities and equipment.
Professor Ken Hardman (right), from University College Worcester,
England, said it is recognised worldwide there has been a decline in PE
provisions in the 1990s, which has exposed deficiencies at a time when
there are reported widespread increases in obesity and sedentary
lifestyle-related illnesses and associated rising healthcare costs.
Adolf Ogi, special adviser to the Secretary-General of the United
Nations on Sports for Development and Peace and the former President of
Switzerland, in his address at the conference, had said that "sports is
the best school of life".
As such, with sports playing such a vital role in shaping a nation, one
wonders why it is still not given the importance it is duly accorded.
The Malaysian Government, through the Ministries of Sports and
Education, have in-deed been placing importance on PE and sports.
But is enough being done, especially at schools level, which is the
grassroots and foundation of sports?
The Sports Ministry's involvement, however, only begins at a later
stage, although recently, there has been significant progress made with
the Sports Culture and Sports for All concepts.
It is obvious sports has not found a proper footing in schools, and the
Ministry of Education need to work hand in hand to ensure a two-prong
attack. Maybe the Health Ministry should also join in for a more serious
attempt at setting things right at the grassroots level.
Millions of ringgit can be spent on sports, but as long as the
foundation - PE and sports in schools - is weak, the end product is going
to be handicapped.
A Bangkok Agenda on Sports and Education was adopted at the end of the
three-day Conference and among the 12 points were:
* THE significance of physical education and sports be recognised;
* PHYSICAL education and sports should be recognised as integral parts
of quality education and should be made a national priority;
* IT should be mandatory for every school to provide students with at
least 120 minutes of curriculum education and sports time each week and,
in the longer term, 180 minutes.
* THE public, private and voluntary sectors should ensure their sports
facilities and human resources are accessible to the public;
* THE Conference invited all countries to establish a 10-year strategy,
starting next year, to enhance quality physical education and sports,
comprising two five-year medium term plans.
* THE process of identifying the national strategy and developing the
plans should include research, current knowledge, strategic planning with
clear outcomes, management and a monitoring evaluation system;
* THE national strategy should be implemented at the highest level in
the country; and
* PROFESSIONAL preparation of PE and sports teachers should be an
important topic of the national strategy.
The agenda is very relevant to Malaysia's hopes in seeing their
athletes soar to world-class level, and what better way than to start
from the grassroots.

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