Physical Education as a tool for developing health and social skills: Results of a pilot study in South Africa and Sweden

  • A Toriola
  • L Amusa
  • G Patriksson
  • K Kougioumtzis
Keywords: Physical Education, health, social skills, quality issues, policy.


A cooperation project on school physical education (PE) was established between the Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. The project was funded as part of the international cooperation agreement between South Africa and Sweden. The aim of the project was to investigate discrepancies between intended subscription and actual provision for PE/Life Orientation (LO) in Swedish and South African schools. Presented in this paper are results of the pilot study on the comparative research project which focused on PE as a tool for developing health and social skills among Swedish and South African school children. A major objective of the project was to investigate how provision for PE is defined in formal school settings in both countries. To answer the question we constructed a 23-item questionnaire measuring PE provision and children’s attitudes towards the subject in primary and lower secondary schools. A questionnaire was constructed utilizing a) participant observations of lessons in Sweden and South Africa, b) semi-structured interviews with school principals and PE teachers in both countries, and c) analyses of policy documents in each country. The pilot instrument consisted of four batteries of questions: a) Health promotion (8 items), b) Social development (8 items), c) Personal development (10 items), and d) Physical development and movement (6 items). The questionnaire was developed in two almost identical versions and was completed by primary school pupils in South Africa (n =105) and Sweden (n = 42). In order to improve the reliability and the construct validity of the questionnaire we modified the pilot versions of the questionnaire eliminating poorly fit items using various statistical techniques. Pupils’ answers to the questionnaire were analyzed mainly through structural equation modeling techniques (AMOS). This technique facilitates the simultaneous analysis of the robustness of the whole instrument and the test of each battery of questions. The statistical analyses were aimed at designing a questionnaire with very good fit indices for Swedish and South African contexts. Results yielded substantial Cronbach’s α: whole instrument (α=.84); Health promotion (α=60), Social development (α=60), Personal development (α=79), Physical development (α=76), which showed acceptable reliability estimates for the questionnaire subscales.

Key words: Physical Education, health, social skills, quality issues, policy.


Journal Identifiers

print ISSN: 2411-6939