Physical Education In Schools Should Be Compulsory

Should Physical Education in schools be compulsory?

Physical Education In Schools Should Be Compulsory
Yes because...

Participation in sport promotes health.

Participation in sport promotes health. Government is, or should be, concerned with the health of its citizens. Encouraging physical activity in the young through compulsory PE fights child obesity and contributes to forming lifelong habits of exercise. This doesn’t have to be through traditional team sports; increasingly schools are able to offer exercise in the form of swimming, gymnastics, dance, weight training, use of a multigym, aerobics, etc.

No because...

Students should be allowed a choice. Lots of children don’t want to do this. If their parents agree, why should they be forced to (or forced to lie in producing a sick note)? It is different from any other lesson – it is about what one does with one’s body. In any case, it is a red herring to say that PE makes any serious difference to people’s health. There are plenty of more effective ways of ensuring a healthy population than pushing children round a freezing sports pitch once a week; not least would be addressing the disgusting diets our young have today, and encouraging walking or cycling to school rather than total reliance on the car.

Physical Education In Schools Should Be Compulsory
Yes because...

Physical Education is an important part of holistic schooling.

Physical Education is an important part of holistic schooling. PE is an aspect of school being about more than just book learning – it is about educating the whole person, a holistic education that betters us in an all-round sense, rather than a merely academic experience. Some aspects of physical education are vital for future wellbeing, e.g. being able to swim, learning to lift heavy weights safely.\
Arguments about cost seem petty when compared to this aim – and also misguided, since PE departments would continue to exist to serve those that chose to study PE voluntarily, even if the subject were no longer to be compulsory. Arguments about the size of classes may well be correct, but these suggest better funding for PE rather than abandonment of the commitment to public health.\

No because...

Sport is a waste of school time and resources. One or two PE lessons a week make very little difference to an individual’s health – but a huge difference to a school’s budget. It creates a whole extra department in schools, wasting a great deal of money and time that could be better spent on academic lessons. It also requires schools buildings to be surrounded by a large amount of land for playing fields, making it prohibitively expensive to build new schools in urban areas. The quality of teaching is low, as students are taught in huge classes. On the other hand, the quality of teaching and of equipment goes up if there are fewer (but keener) students taking the subject. Frankly, given the average current pupil-teacher ration, the subject is not merely without positive purpose – it may be dangerous to students who are normally not properly supervised.

Physical Education In Schools Should Be Compulsory
Yes because...

School sport is about discovering gifts.

School sport is about discovering gifts. If not driven by PE, many in society wouldn’t find out that they had a talent for a sport, or even that they enjoyed it. Once experienced, sport can be enjoyed for life, while for some it will provide the possibility of a college scholarship and even a career. \
Individuals are not humiliated in PE – if they are, the schools concerned should be brought to task just as they would be with regard to humiliation of students in any subject. Rather, as UNESCO says, the student should be helped to fulfil a level of attainment in sport that corresponds to his gifts.\

No because...

Students can ‘discover’ these delights outside of school, without ‘discovering’ the bullying that comes with PE more than with any other lesson. They are more likely to obtain specialist coaching at sports clubs.\
Furthermore, for every child that ‘discovers a gift,’ there are many that suffer. PE is unique, in that ‘failure’ in its lessons involves physical humiliation. This is bad for children and especially bad for adolescents, who have more than enough body issues without this.\

Physical Education In Schools Should Be Compulsory
Yes because...

The quest for national sporting achievement begins in schools.

The quest for national sporting achievement begins in schools. If we don’t have compulsory PE, it is much harder to pick out athletes to represent our country on a wider stage. Even with a ‘sports academy’ model run along Australian lines, it’s much easier to find suitable individuals with a full sports program in every school. State education is not just about aiding the individual – it’s also about the state getting a good return on its investment – in a well-educated populace to drive business and entrepreneurialism etc. This applies equally in sports, too.

No because...

Schools aren’t supposed to be about fostering achievers for the state – that smacks of Stalinism. Schools should be tailored to the individual – if the individual student doesn’t want to participate in sports, they shouldn’t have to. If we allowed such national aims to be considered in schools, would we consent to humiliation of those that did badly in maths lessons, to encourage their achievement in maths (and thus business skills?) Of course not. But we allow that in PE.

Physical Education In Schools Should Be Compulsory
Yes because...

Without school support, sports will collapse.

Without school support, sports will collapse. If full classes aren’t made up, then team activities will end by sheer lack of numbers, no matter if several very talented individuals are at the school (or even potentially talented – they’ll never know without the program). If voluntary take-up of sport in schools is too low, then schools will shut down PE programmes so that there is no choice at all. Not everyone is academic: why deprive those talented sports students of their one chance to shine?

No because...

Forcing children that don’t want to play to make up teams in order to allow others to shine smacks of rigid education from a bygone era. In any case, in an increasingly litigious age, a compulsory rather than voluntary sports program is a liability. More and more schools are avoiding the very team games (e.g. rugby, soccer, hockey, football) the proposition discusses here, due to the (realistic) fear of lawsuits.

Physical Education In Schools Should Be Compulsory
Yes because...

Sports encompasses life choices.

Sport is different to, say Latin – it encompasses life choices (most importantly, a concern for physical fitness, but also working in a team etc) that ought to be encouraged in all students. Extra classes for interested students can take place separately, and often do in the form of fixtures with other schools, championships etc. Sport shouldn’t be seen as an alternative to academia, an either/or – it should be a part of every student’s life in addition to their other studies.\
If the opposition is correct about the heavy workload involved in schools, then students are that much more likely not to choose PE in an environment where it is voluntary, and the quality of our children’s health will be even worse. Much better to keep being healthy compulsory, and reform the pressures elsewhere in the curriculum.\

No because...

Successful sporting nations like Australia realise that sports, like any other specialised subjects, are best taught to selected groups that display both talent and interest in the field – forcing all to compete holds back the able and punishes the less able. The right way to go is to liberate those that don’t want to participate, and allow those that are extremely keen to go to academies that focus their talents more efficiently than a regular school ever could.\
Furthermore, our children are burdened enough in schools already, especially at the older end of the system, with multiple examinations. PE simply adds, needlessly, to this hectic schedule.\

Physical Education In Schools Should Be Compulsory
Yes because...

If not forced to exercise in youth, many will never think to do it in adulthood.

If not forced to exercise in youth, many will never think to do it in adulthood. This is no idle question: obesity in the UK is rising rapidly. Individuals have no right to ‘choice’ about this: they’re being compelled to attend school, to take the lessons the state says they should take. The state doesn’t just impose a curricular compulsion, since physical attendance is forced – so there’s nothing unique in principle about enforced PE. Indeed, what can be more important as an aim for our schools than to encourage public health?\
It is in recognition of that fact, that in 1978 UNESCO recognised PE as ‘as essential element of lifelong education.’\
If PE is made voluntary, it seems obvious that many students – against their long term interests, and the long term interests of society – will choose not to. That will damage this essential element of education, and damage public health. It is true that the health of society is not perfect even with compulsory PE – but how much worse might it be without it?\

No because...

We acknowledge the right of individuals (or their parents) to control their own bodies – when they have an operation, where they go, what they do. Why is this any different?\
This discussion should be held in the real world: students actually aren’t compelled to attend PE classes, as ‘sick notes’ are produced with alarming regularity by parents complicit in their child’s wish to avoid this lesson. The aim of ‘compulsory PE’ isn’t being fulfilled at present in any case, and greater efforts to enforce it will only result in more deceit, or children missing school for the entire day – or, in the most extreme cases, being withdrawn from state education by parents unwilling to allow their children to be forced into something they don’t wish to do. Instead, we should simply abandon the whole exercise and allow PE to become voluntary. The UNESCO charter stresses the right to PE, and was addressed to nations that failed to provide it at all – it was not meant to suggest that individuals should be compelled to do it in nations that do.\

Physical Education In Schools Should Be Compulsory
Yes because...

Sport helps to forge character.

Sport helps to forge character. Playing team sports builds character and encourages students to work with others. It teaches children how to win and lose with good grace and builds a strong school spirit through competition with other institutions. It is often the experience of playing on a team together which builds the strongest friendships at school, which endure for years afterwards.

No because...

Many say the same benefits derive from the common endurance of prison… In particular, injuries sustained through school sport and the psychological trauma of being bullied for sporting ineptitude can mark people for years after they have left school. Teamwork can be better developed through music, drama, community projects, etc. without the need to encourage an ultra-competitive ethos.

Physical Education In Schools Should Be Compulsory
Yes because...

Participation in sport promotes a healthy lifestyle

Participation in sport promotes health. The effect on self-esteem and well-being as a product of sport can only be experienced by certain children if forced by their schools to first participate. A recent report to the European Parliament declared 'physical education is a springboard for involvement in sport and physical activities throughout life’[1]. Government is, or should be, concerned with the health of its citizens. Encouraging physical activity in the young through compulsory PE fights child obesity and contributes to forming lifelong habits of exercise. This doesn’t have to be through traditional team sports; increasingly schools are able to offer exercise in the form of swimming, gymnastics, dance, weight training, use of a multi-gym, aerobics, etc

[1] Hardman, K. (2007). Current situation and prospects for physical education in the European Union. European Parliament

No because...

It is a red herring to say that PE makes any serious difference to people's health. There are plenty of more effective ways of ensuring a healthy population than pushing children round a freezing sports pitch once a week; not least would be addressing the disgusting diets our young have today, and encouraging walking or cycling to school rather than total reliance on the car. Both methods would involve promoting a healthy lifestyle without forcing the participation in unpopular physical education classes that do little for one's education.

Physical Education In Schools Should Be Compulsory
Yes because...

Physical education helps to forge skills that will prove invaluable in later life

Physical education helps to forge character and the mutual respect required to succeed in an adult environment. Playing team sports builds character and encourages students to work with others, as they would be expected to do in most business or sporting environments. Sport teaches children how to win and lose with good grace and builds a strong school spirit through competition with other institutions. It is invaluable to imbue with children the delicate balance between a competitive rivalry that encourages effort and, on the other hand, losing the fairness and respect required to enjoy sport. It is often the experience of playing on a team together which builds the strongest friendships at school, which endure for years afterwards. As was noted in a report to the European Parliament, 'PE...helps children learn to respect and value their own bodies and abilities, and those of others'[1]. Compulsory physical education is the only means by which all children can be forced to appreciate such advantages.

[1]Hardman, K. (2007). Current situation and prospects for physical education in the European Union. European Parliament.

No because...

Physical education undermines one's character as much as it strengthens and forges it. For every future athlete who grows in stature as he becomes comfortable in a team environment, there are a number of academic students who are forced weekly to cope with the brutality and criticisms of others more gifted at specific sports. Values like respect are not taught on a football field, any glance at a professional football match leads inexorably to that conclusion. Furthermore, learning about teamwork and co-operation no longer requires hours spent playing sport; they can be taught just as accurately and effectively in a classroom through music, drama, community projects, etc. without the need to encourage an ultra-competitive ethos.

Physical Education In Schools Should Be Compulsory
Yes because...

Schools can punish students who do not participate in the classes with further PE lessons

Compulsory PE lessons can be treated in the same manner an ordinary educational class is treated; if the student refuses to participate and therefore does not do their work, they are punished with extra work of that same class. In this case, that would necessitate added physical education exercises at a later date or immediately after the class. The excuse that the student does not wish to participate in the class should be seen as no different to if it were stated during a maths or English class, where it would not be accepted. The fact that physical education is qualitatively different to those classes is irrespective; once deemed a compulsory subject, and therefore beneficial, it must be accepted and completed.

No because...

The intention of advocating a healthy lifestyle and sports is lost if there is a punishment attached to the class. Furthermore, to expect all students to participate in a class that is so overtly embarrassing to the weaker athletes is almost state-sanctioned bullying. In a maths class, the working and answers of the weakest students are not paraded in front of the class for all to see, and if they try to stop this, kept behind for extra work. It is demonstrably unfair to ask students, fragile about their appearance as it is, to compete physically with classmates. It should be encouraged, but maintain voluntary for those who wish to do so. The others can still be taught about healthy living and exercise without being dragged into physical exertion.

Physical Education In Schools Should Be Compulsory
No because...

Individuals should have the right to control their own bodies

We acknowledge the right of individuals (or their parents) to control their own bodies – when they have an operation, where they go, what they do. Why is this any different?

This discussion should be held in the real world: students actually aren’t compelled to attend PE classes, as ‘sick notes’ are produced with alarming regularity by parents complicit in their child’s wish to avoid this lesson. The aim of ‘compulsory PE’ isn’t being fulfilled at present in any case, and greater efforts to enforce it will only result in more deceit, or children missing school for the entire day – or, in the most extreme cases, being withdrawn from state education by parents unwilling to allow their children to be forced into something they don’t wish to do. Instead, we should simply abandon the whole exercise and allow PE to become voluntary. The UNESCO charter stresses the right to PE, and was addressed to nations that failed to provide it at all – it was not meant to suggest that individuals should be compelled to do it in nations that do[1].

[1] UNESCO. (1945, November 16). Constitution of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. Retrieved May 18, 2011.

Yes because...

If not forced to exercise in youth, many will never think to do it in adulthood. This is no idle question: obesity in the UK is rising rapidly and Dr. David Haslam believes schools are part of the problem[1]. Individuals have no right to 'choice' about this: they're being compelled to attend school, to take the lessons the state says they should take. The state doesn't just impose a curricular compulsion, since physical attendance is forced – so there’s nothing unique in principle about enforced PE. Indeed, what can be more important as an aim for our schools than to encourage public health?

It is in recognition of that fact, that in 1978 UNESCO recognised PE as ‘as essential element of lifelong education.’ [2]

If PE is made voluntary, it seems obvious that many students – against their long term interests, and the long term interests of society – will choose not to. That will damage this essential element of education, and damage public health. It is true that the health of society is not perfect even with compulsory PE – but how much worse might it be without it?

[1] Batty, D. (2008, February 21). Schools make children more obese, leading doctor says. Retrieved May 18, 2011

[2] UNESCO. (1978, November 21). International Charter of Physical Education and Sport. Retrieved May 18, 2011, from United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Physical Education In Schools Should Be Compulsory
No because...

Students should have the right to choose which subjects they complete at school

Students should be allowed a choice with relation to their school subjects, including physical education. Children know, often from early ages, what they want to do with their life from what subjects they enjoy and those they don't. Lots of children don't want to do physical education; it is different from any other lesson – it is about what one does with one’s body. For those not confident about their bodies, why should they be forced to go through the embarrassment and stress of a PE class when they could be spending the time most constructively and happily in a classroom? Furthermore, and on the flip side, those who do enjoy PE will still be able to take the class and in an environment surrounded by those who feel similarly. Athletes will no longer be held back by those who force teachers to re-iterate instructions or rules.

Yes because...

Students, unaware of the subjects that will most benefit them in the competitive work environment, have no such right to choose all their subjects at school. Many schools offer students a restricted right to choose subjects at school, but only those which offer comparative advantages. Certain subjects like, in the Western world, English, maths, science and physical education, are not voluntary because they offer advantages to all that form a foundation necessary to excel in other areas. If students were given the right to choose all their subjects, few would do the more difficult subjects like science and maths that, whilst requiring more effort, are more rewarding for society as a whole, and the students themselves.

Physical Education In Schools Should Be Compulsory
No because...

Compulsory physical education risks unnecessary and costly injury

A compulsory rather than voluntary sports program is a risk for both students and schools. More and more schools are avoiding team games (e.g. rugby, soccer, hockey, football) for the (realistic) fear of lawsuits when injuries and disputes occur. In one example, a defendant was awarded £100,000 by the school of a student who tackled dangerously and caused both neck and ligament injuries to his opponent opponent[1]. Furthermore, injuries sustained through school sport and the psychological trauma of being bullied for sporting ineptitude can mark people for years after they have left school. Furthermore, psychological injuries occur to those who would not otherwise do sport if not forced, these injuries tend to be the longest and most damaging. Voluntary physical education would avoid such traumatic episodes.

[1]BBC News (2001, August 8). Rugby injury wins £100,000 damages. Retrieved May 18, 2011.

Yes because...

Compulsory physical education does not risk unnecessary and costly injury. Injuries that occur in physical education are firstly more advisable than injuries that occur in the classroom or playground for PE teachers tend to be trained in first-aid. Furthermore, the psychological bullying occurring in physical education classes is only a small subset of bullying that is rife among schools as a whole. The prowess, or lack of it, that leads to bullying in PE classes is no different to the lack of 'prowess' in looks, or name, or spelling that will drive bullying in other educational environments.

Physical Education In Schools Should Be Compulsory
No because...

Physical education is best taught to selected groups

Successful sporting nations realise that sports, like any other specialised subjects, are best taught to selected groups that display both talent and interest in the field – forcing all to compete holds back the able and punishes the less able. The right way to go is to liberate those that don’t want to participate, and allow those that are extremely keen to go to academies that focus their talents more efficiently than a regular school ever could.

Furthermore, our children are burdened enough in schools already, especially at the older end of the system, with multiple examinations. PE simply adds, needlessly, to this hectic schedule.

Yes because...

Sport is different to, say Latin – it encompasses life choices (most importantly, a concern for physical fitness, but also working in a team etc.) that ought to be encouraged in all students. As Ken Hardman argues, ‘physical education makes a unique contribution to the education of all pupils’[1]. Extra classes for interested students can take place separately, and often do in the form of fixtures with other schools, championships etc. Sport shouldn’t be seen as an alternative to academia, an either/or – it should be a part of every student’s life in addition to their other studies.

If the opposition is correct about the heavy workload involved in schools, then students are that much more likely not to choose PE in an environment where it is voluntary, and the quality of our children’s health will be even worse. Much better to keep being healthy compulsory, and reform the pressures elsewhere in the curriculum.
[1] Hardman, K. (2007). Current situation and prospects for physical education in the European Union. European Parliament.

Physical Education In Schools Should Be Compulsory
No because...

Sport is a waste of school time and resources

Sport is a waste of school time and resources. One or two PE lessons a week make very little difference to an individual's health– but a huge difference to a school’s budget. It creates a whole extra department in schools, wasting a great deal of money and time that could be better spent on academic lessons[1] It also requires schools buildings to be surrounded by a large amount of land for playing fields, making it prohibitively expensive to build new schools in urban areas. The quality of teaching is low, as students are taught in huge classes. On the other hand, the quality of teaching and of equipment goes up if there are fewer (but keener) students taking the subject. One Californian student asked to comment stated PE ‘doesn’t help me in any way...it’s really a waste of time. I don’t learn anything here.’[2]

[1] Active Living Research. (2007). Active Education: Physical Education, Physical Activity and Academic Performance. San Diego.

[2] Marshall, J., & Hardman, K. (2000). The State and Status of Physical Education in Schools in International Context. European Physical Education Review, 203-229.

Yes because...

Physical Education is an important part of holistic schooling. PE is an aspect of school being about more than just book learning – it is about educating the whole person, a holistic education that betters us in an all-round sense, rather than a merely academic experience. Some aspects of physical education are vital for future wellbeing, e.g. being able to swim, learning to lift heavy weights safely. Furthermore, ‘kids who are more physically active tend to perform better academically’[1].

Arguments about cost seem petty when compared to this aim – and also misguided, since PE departments would continue to exist to serve those that chose to study PE voluntarily, even if the subject were no longer to be compulsory. Arguments about the size of classes may well be correct, but these suggest better funding for PE rather than abandonment of the commitment to public health.

[1] Active Living Research. (2007). Active Education: Physical Education, Physical Activity and Academic Performance. San Diego.



Physical Education In Schools Should Be Compulsory

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2 Comments on "Physical Education In Schools Should Be Compulsory"

Shreya Malhotra

physical education in school is not at all compulsory for it is a total waste of time for those children who are not at all interested ….. and therefore spontaneously put no effort in it. It is better if it is made an elective issue as this will not only save the time of those who are interested in other school extra- curricular activities but also make the ones who are efficient in it…

Shreya Malhotra

“Knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind…” as quoted by famous American writer Sylvia Plath. I think this quote justifies my point of argument that physical education should not at all be compulsory in school….

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