Physical education, school physical activity, school sports and academic performance

If this is true, why is the BC Ministry of Education closing community schools and busing students for hours across town or sometimes to other communities and then charging families approximately $300/student to do so? Students should be encouraged to ride their bikes to their local neighbourhood schools because there are sooooo many benefits and is much more economical in the long run. The only reason I can think of why is to save money for some other initiative other than our children. Click here or on the pdf file to read the full article or an excerpt below.


Discussion and Conclusion

Available data suggest that school PA (PE instruction, free time PA or school sport) could become a consistent component of PA to meet current guidelines for children and adolescents without impairing academic achievement, even if curricular time for so-called academic subjects is curtailed. In his classical work “The Adolescent Society,” James S. Coleman advanced the concept of a zero-sum model. [93] This hypothesized that if time was taken from academic programmes to allow other pursuits, academic achievement would suffer. This concept may be applicable if time is spent in paid employment while attending school [94], but it does not seem to apply to extracurricular activities like sports or curricular PE. [95] In contrast, such activities are likely to increase attachment to school and self-esteem which are indirect but important factors in academic achievement.

Parents concerned about decreases in study and homework time may be better advised to question the time their children spend on TV and computer games rather than the time that they devote to PE, PA or sports in school. Indeed, the more children watch TV, the greater the decline in their academic results. [96] At least one Canadian study found that the time devoted to PA was positively associated with the time that school-aged children spent in reading. [97] Parents interested in the health and academic success of their offspring should focus on the increased prevalence of various metabolic pathologies in which sedentary behaviour plays a key etiologic role, for example, obesity and type 2 diabetes, both of which are beginning at an ever younger age. [98] Such pathologies have the potential to affect school performance adversely, although this is an area where more research is needed. [99] In one recent article, obese 3rd grade girls (8 years old) did not have poorer academic results after control for SES, but relative to normal weight girls they exhibited more displaced behaviours like arguing and fighting, as well as more depressive symptoms like loneliness and sadness [100].

Engagement in PE instruction would probably be increased if grades were allocated for performance in PE, particularly in high school. The engagement of girls, particularly, decreases when PE is not considered incalculating their GPA. [101, 102] However, between grade 8 and 12, the school drop-out rate for adolescents of both sexes is reduced by sport participation [103]

Another problem that remains to be resolved, despite a call for action from the Surgeon General in 1996, is the heterogeneity in provision of PE [104], extracurricular sports and other school PA programmes [105], schools with a low SES being particularly disadvantaged. School sport would appeal to more students if emphasis was placed on its educational potential rather than its competitive side. Potential drifting of objectives should be monitored to avoid a «subversion» of the educational mission and ensure a maximisation of positive effects such as academic achievement and long term adherence to physical activity. The current emphasis on a limited range of team sports should be modified to provide opportunities for students who are interested in and have the skills relevant to other sport ventures, thus attracting a wider range of students.

Many questions remain to be clarified on the relationship between academic performance, PE, school PA and sports. However, to paraphrase Eccles et al. [67], “We now know enough about the kinds of programs likely to have positive effects on children and adolescents’ development.” The literature strongly suggests that the academic achievement, physical fitness and health of our children will not be improved by limiting the time allocated to PE instruction, school PA and sports programmes.


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