A case for physical education / life orientation : the health of a nation : research article

  • Karel J. Van Deventer
Keywords: Health, Education, Physical education, Life orientation, Partnership


The Worldwide Audit on the state and status of Physical Education (PE) in 1999 provides a clear picture of the threat under which the school subject seems to be on a worldwide scale. In the aftermath of the World Summit on PE, held in Berlin in 1999, it was deemed necessary to investigate the health status of populations and the current international and national trends regarding quality PE as a school subject. The research was conducted by means of a literature study in the field of health, education and PE. In the United States (US) the 1996 Surgeon General's report on physical activity and health as well as the 1997 subsequent recommendations from the Centres of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) clearly made a plea for quality daily PE in school programmes to promote physically active and healthy lifestyles among the youth. However, childhood obesity is currently plaguing the US and although the US seems to be the world leader in obesity among the youth, Europe, Australia and Canada do not seem to lag behind. South Africa (SA) is also following the world trend with our youth becoming increasingly inactive and obese. A number of initiates were launched in various countries to provide quality PE programmes in schools, but in SA only sport is regarded as an important component for the overall development and upliftment of previously disadvantaged communities. To ensure favourable medal counts at elite sports competitions the limited funds available have to be allocated, bearing these national priorities in mind. Against this backdrop the sports delivery network finds it economically and politically 'profitable' to promote elite sport at the expense of PE and 'sport for all' community projects (Burnett & Hollander, 1999). Attempts were made to reinstate PE as a school subject with full status, but in the Revised National Curriculum Statement (Grades R-9) of 2002 it is one focus (physical development and movement) among four other foci in the Life Orientation (LO) learning area. The National Curriculum Statement for Grades 10-12 is still in draft form but it seems that PE will also be a focus (recreation and physical well-being) of LO. Taking the initiatives and health status of children worldwide into account, Hardman (2002) and Chernushenko (2003) wonder whether reports on quality PE programmes in schools and communities are not just lip service. The key word to serve the mutual best interests of physical and health education as well as sport, is partnerships. The challenge for PE is to embrace initiatives at school, local community, national and international levels. These stakeholders need to stipulate detailed strategies to obtain short- and long-term objectives regarding health habits and physical activity patterns for the youth.

Keywords: Health, Education, Physical education, Life orientation, Partnership

South African Journal for Research in Sport, Physical Education and Recreation Vol.26(1) 2004: 107-121

Journal Identifiers

print ISSN: 0379-9069