Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy vol:14 issue:4 pages:407-420
Background: A lack of physical activity and the occurrence of overweight and obesity among school-aged youth have become a major societal problem. Arising from the general concern about the future generations’ health, schools have been found to be potentially important settings to promote positive health behaviour, since all pupils can be reached spending large amounts of time in the school environment. Moreover, it is beyond doubt that physical education (PE) has a key role to play. As in other European countries, the Flemish PE goals identify the importance of physical activity (PA) in the development and maintenance of good health. However, the discrepancy between the important role attributed to PE with regard to the development of a healthy and physically active lifestyle and the currently observed increasing sedentary and unhealthy behaviour of children and youth, is one of the reasons to question the efficiency of the current PE curricula.
Purpose: Within the framework of the Flemish education system, this paper aims to document on the pathways by which PE and schools can contribute to establish lifetime adherence to sport and physical activity in order to enhance and maintain young people’s health later in life. From a public health perspective, this is one of the main challenges for PE in the forthcoming decades. The current PE curriculum requirements and implementation in Flemish schools are described as a starting point. Then, evidence-based recommendations are formulated in order to optimize the content and delivery of the PE curriculum towards its health-related goals.
Conclusions: School PE has been recognised as the foundation base of the PA participation pyramid. Nevertheless, there is a need to move beyond the PE and school curriculum. Especially, schools, parents and the community should work together to encourage children and youth to be physically active. As a consequence, the PE teachers’ role should not be restricted to the education of pupils during PE lessons, but should be expanded to include guiding youths in the process of becoming physically active both inside and outside school and for life. PE teachers have to accept this responsibility and this effort has to be recognised by the school board.