Overall development

Role of physical education in enhancing the quality of education

Physical education and sports in education

Sports involve physical exertion and skills that are used by individuals or teams to compete against another individual or other teams for entertainment. It includes playing, recreational activities, organised, casual or competitive sport, and indigenous sports or games.

Sports contribute to physical fitness, mental and emotional well-being and social interaction. The benefits of physical education and sports reach beyond the impact on physical well-being. They are vital for the holistic development of children.

Various aspects that are benefitted by physical education and sports

  1. Early development: Sports and physical education is fundamental to the early development of children and adolescents. The skills learned during play, physical education and sports contribute to their social and moral development.
  2. Social development: Participation in physical activity can assist in the social development of young people by providing opportunities for self-expression, building self-confidence, social interaction and integration. Moral behaviour is acquired through social interaction that occurs through sports and physical activity conducted collectively. Through participation in sports and physical education, young people learn about the importance of key values and soft skills such as:
    1. Honesty
    2. Teamwork
    3. Fair play
    4. Leadership
    5. Respect for themselves and others, gender equality
    6. Taking order and adherence to rules
    7. It also provides a forum for children who are athletes to learn how to deal with competition and how to cope with both winning and losing.
    They also learn about socialisation, social integration and build social capital
  3. Character building: Sports help in building character of young people. It teaches behavioural habits like motivation, discipline, tenacity, competitive spirit, responsibility, perseverance, confidence, social interaction with other students and self-esteem, which cannot be acquired in a classroom. It enhances the ability to pursue intellectual, social and emotional challenges.
  4. Deterrent to deviant behaviour: Research suggests that sports can be used as a means to reduce deviant behaviour such as truancy, use of tobacco, drug abuse, violence and crime among children and youth.
  5. Motor skills and kinesthetic intelligence development: Physical education and sports trains functional skills like, coordination and movement accuracy, dexterity and balance, and flexibility of body. It helps children refine and expand upon their physical repertoire of skills. Among younger children, physical education, educational games, dance, and gymnastics help develop fundamental motor skills such as:
    1. Locomotor skills (skills children develop while moving from one place to another, e.g., walking, running, hopping, jumping, leaping, rolling, skipping, galloping, climbing, sliding, propulsion through water)
    2. Non-locomotor skills (skills children develop while moving but remaining in one spot, e.g., turning, twisting, swinging, balancing, bending, landing, stretching, curling, hanging)
    3. Manipulative skills developed while using an implement. It may include: receiving (catching, collecting), retaining (dribbling, carrying, bouncing trapping), sending (throwing, kicking, striking) and object control (e.g. throwing, catching, kicking)
    Research has found that children who spend more time in moderate to vigorous physical activities tend to have high motor skill because physically active children spend more time learning and improving new motor skills. Children with better motor skills may also find physical activity easier and more fun. We know that motor skills do not always improve naturally. It is important to introduce children to new movements and create opportunities for them to practice. By encouraging physical activity, not only will children improve their motor skills, they will also increase their confidence!
  6. Health: There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that focuses on the (mostly positive) effects of sports and exercise on physical health, growth and development. It has been shown that students miss fewer days of school because of illness and exhibit greater academic achievement because of the physical vitality gained by physical education.
    Long-term involvement in physical activity and sports also build health activity habits that encourage life-long participation in physical activity. This extends the impact of physical education beyond the schoolyard and highlights the potential impact of physical education on public health.   Appropriate practice of physical activity assists young people as they help:
    1. Develop healthy musculoskeletal tissues (i.e. bones, muscles and joints)
    2. Develop a healthy cardiovascular system (i.e. heart and lungs)
    3. Develop neuromuscular awareness (i.e. coordination and movement control);
    4. Maintain a healthy body weight
    5. Improve strength and endurance
    6. Improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels
    7. Avoid injury
    8. Decrease morbidity
    9. Reduce premature mortality
    The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends that young people aged 6–17 years participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily.
  7. Educational potential and learning abilities: Sport and physical activity also have positive benefits on academic performance. According to the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (US) study that correlates school performance with maintaining good physical condition, findings suggest that pupils performed better in both reading and maths when they were also involved in ongoing athletic activities, regardless of gender or ethnicity.Sport-based programmes have been shown to improve:
    1. Learning performance of children and young people
    2. Desire to succeed academically
    3. Academic achievement and grades
    4. Academic behaviour, such as time spent on tasks
    5. Factors that influence academic achievement, such as school attendance, alertness, concentration and attentiveness in the classroom
    Children form more mentally effective schemes by physically interacting with their environment.
  8. Leadership skills: Children and youth are benefitted by appropriate forms of leadership experienced during sports. For example, research shows that martial arts taught with a philosophy of respect, patience, responsibility and honour were related to decreased delinquency.
  9. Attitudes towards school: A number of studies show that once sports are introduced in school, pupil attendance increases. An increase in the availability of sports activities would make the prospect of attending school more appealing.In this sense, sports activities in schools act as a gateway (if presented in appropriate ways) to drawing children and young people towards attending school.
  10. Mental well being: A number of studies have shown that regular physical activity in childhood and adolescence play a therapeutic role in addressing a number of psychological disorders. Physical activity and exercise have been associated with psychological benefits in young people by improving their control over symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. It improves self-esteem as it is linked with physical self-worth and physical self-perception, including body image.

When parents involve themselves in sporting activities and practice it themselves along with their children it improves participation resulting in performance improvements of children. The amount of exercise pupils receive in and outside school can create positive habits that serve to compliment academic achievement.

It is important to understand that positive health outcomes from physical education and sports is possible only when the activities are coupled with appropriate nutrition, regulated intensity and type of physical activity, appropriate footwear and clothing, climate, injury, stress levels and sleep patterns.

The downside

A distinction between pursuing recreational and competitive youth sport and physical activity is important to understand the extent to which sport acts as a magnet or a repellent to academic education. Sports activities in schools may act as a gateway that draws children and young people towards attending school. On the other hand, at times, when children are undergoing excessive and intensive training for competing in higher-level competitive youth sport, it may act as an obstacle to fulfilling educational and academic pursuits. It is not uncommon that adults such as sports coaches and even parents push young athletes to abandon their studies to focus almost full-time on the competitive sports.


Sports and Education Work Well Together. Retrieved from:

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/10/21/taking-sports-out-of-school- 2/sports-and-education-work-well-together

Cornelißen, T., Pfeifer, C.(2007). ‘The Impact of Participation in Sports on Educational Attainment: New Evidence from Germany.’ Retrieved from: http://ftp.iza.org/dp3160.pdf

What is Sport and Development? Retrieved from:
Physical Education is Critical to a Complete Education. Retrieved from: http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Physical_Education/?page=2
Adolescent and School Health> Physical Activity Facts. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/physicalactivity/facts.htm

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