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Examinable Pe

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‘Examinable Physical Education – A good idea?’
Physical Education (PE) is a subject where you can take part in and learn about physical activities. You learn about how important keeping fit is for the health of your body and mind. In some activities you work on your own and in others you work with your classmates as part of a team. (NCCA)
Physical education is now a compulsory subject in all schools in Ireland, and the same is true for most other countries in the world. In countries where P.E is not compulsory, it is often taught as part of the curriculum ‘as a matter of general practice’. (Hardman. K). It is important that these guidelines be adhered to by schools from a young ages i.e. primary schools, as the early years of a child’s life are crucial in the development of fundamental movement skills and the opportunity to develop physical capacities. In some schools however, there are various reasons as to why these necessary requirements are not complied with. These include poor time allocation to P.E as other subjects are seen as more superior and of more importance, lack of assessment procedures, financial reasons e.g. lack of resources such as halls, pitches and courts and also poor equipment available such as nets, balls, rackets etc. Finally one huge factor contributing to the inadequacy of P.E classes or no P.E classes at all may be due to the deficiency in numbers of qualified Physical Education teachers and also negative attitudes from parents and individuals in higher power positions e.g. principals.
In 2007 61% of countries identified Physical Education as an examinable subject in comparison to the considerable number of countries which identify Maths as examinable. The junior cycle physical Education syllabus states that ‘the general aim of education is to contribute towards the development of all aspects of the individual’. How then I question, is it fair that a student who may be physically very capable but struggles academically, does not receive admiration nor reward for his/her capabilities in the same way that a student who may excel at Maths receives an A1, 100 points towards their overall result? For that reason I strongly feel that P.E should be an examinable subject at both junior and senior cycle level.
Children and adolescence are showing increasing levels of obesity and decreasing levels of participation in physical activity which is also a hugely significant factor to strive and fight for the introduction of P.E as examinable in schools. We are all aware of the students who didn’t feel like doing P.E on a certain day and got a note from their parent stating an excuse as to why they could not participate. If Physical Education was an examinable subject these students may feel as if they have a need or an obligation to go to P.E class. I cannot help but to think that if P.E was to become an examinable subject it would gain a higher status in the minds of parents, teachers and students alike and hopefully achieve the recognition it deserves as an adequate subject to be though in schools.
However on the other hand one has to pose the question as to how does one assess or examine Physical Education. Is it the product that we should focus on, gaining perfection at a certain task, flawless acquisition of a skill or is it the process by which a certain skill is learned and practiced? For example a student who is a gymnast can perform a headstand in the first week where as an amateur at the sport cannot do it at all. In this situation the gymnast and the amateur have very different expectations and needs from the class, the gymnast wants to perfect his/her headstand whereas the amateur simply wants to be able to do it and is not worried about technicalities. Do you carry out fitness tests? If so does this introduce bias towards those who are less fit, less physically capable, which is exactly what is aiming to be avoided with the introduction of P.E as an examinable subject in the first place? In my opinion it should be by continuous assessment that the subject be evaluated for example attendance, effort and application towards tasks administrated in class, attitude. In this way it motivates the student to attend the class and apply themselves as best they can in Physical Education.
The NCCA has developed a draft leaving certificate syllabus which identifies developing ‘learners' ability to become informed, skilled, self-directed and reflective performers in physical education and physical activity now and in the future’ as its preliminary aim. These are all highly important in achieving and maintain a healthy lifestyle after all ‘health is wealth’. According to the draft, students who complete the P.E leaving certificate syllabus will be resourceful, confident and engaged active leaders which one can agree are essential and desirable qualities of any school leaver, whether they are about to experience college life or even entering the work force.
The growth and development of examinable Physical Education has been very significant in the UK. Studies carried out by Carroll, 1998; MacKreth, 1998; DfES , 2004a to compare the growth of total GCSE entries showed that between 1997 and 1998 84,200 students took P.E and this had increased to 110,900 between 2002 and 2003. This shows a percentage change of 31.73 which was the largest by far when all subjects were taken into consideration. This is a great indication as to how examinable P.E has taken off in and is growing at an excessive rate in the UK.
Evidently there two sides to the argument, both supported by reasonable arguments with genuine concern behind them. I believe that we need to take the plunge and introduce P.E as an examinable subject; perhaps at a junior cycle initially, otherwise we will never know whether or not it would be successful. After all, how do you know a shoe will fit unless you try it on?!

• Hardman. K (2002/2007) physical education in schools: A global Perspective. University of Worchester, UK.

• Green, K & Hardman, K (2005). Physical Education, Essential Issues. 9 p145. London: SAGE

• MacPhail, A & Halbert, J. (2005). The implementation of a revised physical education syllabus in Ireland: circumstances, rewards and costs. European Physical Education Review. 11 (3), p287-306.

Internet websites:
• Junior Cycle Physical Education Fact sheet available on: (Last visited 16/02/’12)

• Leaving Certificate Physical education draft syllabus for consultation available on: (Last visited 19/02/’12)

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