Skip to the main content

Review article

Physical education in schools: a global perspective

Ken Hardman ; Worcester University, UK

Full text: english pdf 328 Kb

page 5-28

downloads: 14.578



This article draws from the Second Worldwide Survey of the situation of physical education (PE) in schools. The Survey was undertaken as a contribution to the UN dedicated 2005 Year of Sport and PE and in response to intergovernmental agencies’ calls for regular monitoring of developments in school PE in the form of a ‘reality check’. The overall purpose of the Survey was to assess the worldwide situation of school PE as well as developments since the Physical Education World Summit held in November 1999 in Berlin for which a multimethod/pluralistic approach was adopted with analysis of a range of sources comprising globally and regionally as well as on-line disseminated questionnaires, national surveys, continental regional and national PE-related projects, case studies and a comprehensive literature review. The pluralistic methods facilitated data collection on national level policies and practice-related issues in school PE, the PE curriculum, resources (human and material), the PE environment (school subject and PE teacher status; and pathway links to PE activity in out-of-school settings) and ‘Best Practice’ exemplars. The data generated provide an indication of patterns and trends in school PE in countries and regions across the world.
The ‘reality check’ indicates that positive developments and policy rhetoric are juxtaposed with adverse practice shortcomings. Thus, the overall scenario is one of ‘mixed messages’ with evidence that national and/or regional governments have committed themselves through legislation to making provision for PE but some have been either slow or reticent in translating this into action through actual implementation and assurance of quality of delivery. Essentially, the situation especially in economically under-developed and developing regions has changed little since the 1999 Berlin Physical Education Summit. Continuing concerns embrace: insufficient curriculum time allocation, perceived inferior subject status, insufficient competent qualified and/or inadequately trained teachers (particularly in primary schools), inadequate provision of facilities and equipment and teaching materials frequently associated with underfunding, large class sizes and funding cuts and, in some countries, inadequate provision or awareness of pathway links to wider community programmes and facilities outside of schools. More generally, there is disquiet over the falling fitness standards of young people, rising levels of obesity amongst children of school age and high youth dropout rates from physical/sporting activity engagement. Whilst some improvements in inclusion (related to gender and disability) policy and practice can be identified since the Berlin Physical Education Summit, barriers to equal provision and access opportunities for all still remain. However, current intergovernmental initiatives (European Parliament’s 2007 Resolution on the Role of Sport in Education and UNESCO advocacy action) place PE on the political agenda. With such intergovernmental commitments to policy principles and action advocacy, a secure and sustainable future for PE appears to be realizable.


PE provision; time allocation; PE curriculum; subject status; PE teacher education; facilities; teaching material; funding; fitness standards; obesity; political agenda

Hrčak ID:



Publication date:


Article data in other languages: croatian

Visits: 22.770 *