Physical Activity and Physical Education in Schools

In evaluating the curriculum for primary schools, it is important to examine what children are in fact doing inside the school. That is why it is useful to look at a child's schedule of classes. This goes far beyond the sound bites we hear from education policy makers or reformers. The class schedule showing the time allotment for each subject is highly informative, providing a dimension one does not see by simply browsing through a list of content standards or a curriculum. 

From "Recess as a Favorite Subject May Sound Funny, But Seriously, It Is Important": With the oral fluency in English added in the second half of the year, the total instructional time per day is 240 minutes or 4 hours. This information can then be combined with the following schedule found in schools that employ triple shifts:
It's shortly after dawn, but the youngest pupils in overcrowded Ilugin Elementary School in Pasig City are already in class. Ilugin's grade one students are part of the first shift in a school that needs to schedule classroom use in three shifts to accommodate all 1,800 of its students. The first shift begins at 6 a.m., ending at 10 a.m., while the last shift starts at 2 p.m. and ends at 6 p.m. - GMA News report:
Each shift is four hours long. Of course, a 12-hour day can only be divided into three 4-hour shifts with no breaks between them. Physical Education is part of MAPEH, so students probably go through some physical exercise once every four days since MAPEH rotates around music, arts, physical education, and health. Not only does the new curriculum excludes science, and reading and writing in English, it does exclude Recess.

The situation in the United States is equally disturbing because of the current emphasis on standardized tests which focus on reading and mathematics. With funding and bonuses tied to the performance of students in these subjects, schools are neglecting the other subjects including physical activity and physical education. Yes, recess gets the cut because students need to sit on their desks longer doing additions, subtractions, multiplications and divisions. With social media especially Facebook, text messaging, and video games, the time allotted for medium and vigorous physical activity is indeed dwindling.

For this reason, the Institute of Medicine in the United States has recently raised its voice against the decreasing amount of time given to physical activity and physical education in US schools. The following is a video from the institute:

Among the recommendations of the institute are the following:
School districts should provide high-quality curricular physical education during which the students should spend at least half (> 50 percent) of the class-time engaged in vigorous or moderate-intensity physical activity. All elementary school students should spend an average of 30 minutes per day and all middle and high school students an average of 45 minutes per day in physical education class. To allow for flexibility in curriculum scheduling, this recommendation is equivalent to 150 minutes per week for elementary school students and 225 minutes per week for middle and high school students.
Students should engage in additional vigorous or moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the school day through recess, dedicated classroom physical activity time, and other opportunities.
Additional opportunities for physical activity before and after school hours, including but not limited to active transport, before- and after-school programming, and intramural and extramural sports, should be made accessible to all students.
The Institute of Medicine also adds:
A growing body of evidence also suggests a relationship between vigorous and moderate intensity physical activity and the structure and functioning of the brain. Children who are more active show greater attention, have faster cognitive processing speed, and perform better on standardized academic tests than children who are less active. Of course, academic performance is influenced by other factors as well, such as parental involvement and socioeconomic status. Nevertheless, ensuring that children and adolescents achieve at least the recommended amount of vigorous or moderate-intensity physical activity may well improve overall academic performance.


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