Few schools have an adequate physical education program as part of their school curriculum. Although some elite schools for the echelons of society have some physical education program, for the most part, they are non-existent or mediocre at best. This is particularly true of developing nations such as Pakistan.
This lack in a nation’s education system becomes pronounced at a time when children are spending more and more time behind walls for security reasons or tucked away in the house behind a computer game. The cost of inadequate physical activity for our students is proving to be alarming and will only escalate as time passes. The bottom line is that our students are not getting necessary physical exercise either in the school or outside. This is costing nations like Pakistan big time by producing a population that is neither healthy nor productive due to unhealthy lifestyles.
Although promoters of physical education are at work trying to bring physical education into the school curriculum, they face a strenuous campaign. Existing schools may not have facilities or grounds to accommodate a physical education program in the curriculum. But even where the physical dimensions exist to provide an adequate playing ground, resistance abounds. It is found in the following areas:
· Lack of funding from the ministries of education – schools cannot bear the cost alone.
· Lack of universal policies regarding the incorporation of physical education into the public and private school system and the lack of enforcement where physical education provisions are not met
· Lack of interest on the part of staff, students and parents. Often the “three Rs” (Reading, writing and Arithmetic) are seen as essential studies and physical education is not important for an education or for furtherance of a career
This indifference to physical education’s importance has already taken its toll on developing societies. Take for example Pakistan which now has a high rate of obesity among the well-to-do, chronic heart diseases, hypertension and diabetes. All of these diseases can be drastically reduced by the introduction of a good physical education program in the schools. And of course, poor health leads to a loss of productivity at school and in the workplace. Absenteeism due to disease means lower achievements and losses to the nation as a hole. It costs a nation in health care and unproductivity.
A good physical education program in the schools is worth the initial cost of investment because the returns are:
· It is a link to good health. The learned healthy lifestyle, regular exercise and healthy eating will stay with a student throughout their lifespan
· Preventive medicine as it reduces obesity, hypertension, chronic heart diseases and diabetes in children and into adulthood
· Develops motor skills and hand-eye coordination
· Promotes academic achievements: Physical exercise improves circulation of blood and oxygen throughout the body and also to the brain. This increases a student’s attention span so they have a higher concentration and absorption of information.
· Builds personal character in the areas of self-esteem, team players, cooperation and sportsmanship on and off the field.
In nations where there is a lack of physical education programs, the country’s education authorities must initiate this necessary component of education into the national curriculum. They have to look around and see the damage that has already been done by the lack of it, see what it is costing them in losses and move towards a curriculum that includes physical education which will benefit them in the long term.