Why Schools Need A Powerful Physical Education Policy

Books and homework alone don’t make an education. Learning need to be well-rounded –  students learn pick up all sorts of life skills and habits in school, even from a very young age. Required curriculum elements have, in many cases, forced districts and schools to cut some of the extras that help to make our students more well-rounded individuals. No one wants to see art, music, or even food education cut out of their school’s curriculum, but did you know how important a strong PE curriculum can be?

The handy infographic below  (created by UNESCO) takes a look at why a quality physical education program is so important for students. It does more than get students up off their tookus for an hour in the middle of the school day. Keep reading to learn more.

The Power of Physical Education

Physical education provides a gateway to:

  • Physical well-being
  • Social and emotional well-being
  • Culture and the arts
  • Literacy and communication
  • Learning approaches and cognition
  • Numeracy and mathematics
  • Science and technology

Physical Education….

  • Values and communication skills are a critical complement to cognitive knowledge
  • Quality physical education drives inclusion
  • Develop knowledge and confidence to drive academic achievement
  • Breaks down barriers
  • Challenges stigma
  • Encourages dialogue and understanding between all groups
  • Drives socioeconomic improvement – fewer health issues, obesity, longer life span, etc

Because of all these benefits, 97% of countries have made physical education compulsory, but:

  • Only 79% of countries have prescribed curricula
  • Physical Education is considered less important than other subjects in 54% of countries
  • Only 53% of primary schools have suitably trained Physical Education teachers



  1. Rahul

    February 17, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    Physical Education is very beneficial for the mentally and physical growth of a person. So we should concentrate on this education too as well as with other educations. And thanks to share the data about different countries on Physical education.

  2. Marcelle McGhee

    February 20, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    Katie, I appreciate the spirit of the post and the information about various countries but to be blunt, Physical Education in our U.S schools is a waste of time. It just provides the jock students with more opportunity to practice “soccer skills” etc. While the rest of the students “hang out”. As long as physical education continues to be competition driven, “who can run faster” or “kick the ball further”, it will be a waste of time. Time that could be better spent with core class or music or arts instruction. The problem is further compounded when the Physical Education teachers are “jocks” or coaches themselves. As for the graph above, no P.E, does not “empower” girls. If anything physical education classes (as they are implemented in the U.S) causes non-athletic girls and I would hazard boys too, to feel bad about themselves and their perceived lack of “athletic” ability. As for the call to “support quality physical education in your country”, I respectfully suggest the call “Remove useless P.E classes from U.S schools”.

    • Ryan

      February 24, 2014 at 12:58 pm

      MARCELLE- I would also like to point out the highly researched and proven correlative effects that exercise has on academic performance.

    • Kazy

      February 24, 2014 at 3:31 pm

      I am a California PE teacher and I hold Life Long Fitness to the Highest Standard. Like in any other subject there are classes that could probably be structured differently. We should be teaching our students that to have a sound mind is just as important as having a sound body and soul. As a student I did not enjoy PE and I actually almost failed it during middle school. As I got older I realized that there was a need to change the way PE was taught so that others would not feel the same way I did. It is my personal goal to help students and parents to realize that it is not about being the fastest or best ball kicker, but it is about being healthy and staying active. It is hard to concentrate in math class when your mind is foggy due to sugar overload, or for the student who needs that movement outlet because of their ADD or ADHD. PE is here to help, not waste time.

    • Lynn

      March 4, 2014 at 7:06 pm

      I am saddened Marcelle, that you feel that Physical Education is a waste of time. Today’s PE has changed dramatically. I have quality, purposeful lesson daily and I, too, NEVER play dodgeball or those types of games. I emphasize sportsmanship, teamwork, and dedication to one’s health above all. I teach health concepts and nutrition, something the kids don’t get any where else. I make sure the athletes don’t dominate and utilize them as peer coaches. That helps them thrive while allowing the less athletic feel safe and comfortable. Yes, there are still old school teachers out there, but they are, thankfully being weeded out. I urge you to visit a quality PE program and see the great things happening.

  3. Jen Spiegel

    February 23, 2014 at 6:03 pm

    As an elementary physical educator, I take pride in my profession and I fully believe in the importance, as well as the benefits of having a ‘QUALITY’ physical education program. I do not place an emphasis on competition, nor do I roll out the ball or play dodgeball as what is typically depicted in movies. EVER! My emphasis is educating the whole child, not simply to see who can run the fastest or kick the furthest. I am a teacher first and foremost. The key in the above article is ‘Quality.’ Physical Education has changed drastically over the years however, unfortunately most who oppose physical education are not aware of these changes. It is up to us, as physical educators to be advocates of our profession. Join your state organization, get involved! The longevity of a healthy lifestyle begins with a quality physical education program.

  4. Ryan

    February 24, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    MARCELLE- It saddens me that you allow such stereotypes, and possibly bad personal experiences, to drive your opinions on this matter. Please keep in mind that PE is FAR more than simply teaching kids to kick balls and run fast. Sure, there is some of that because it is an integral component in gross motor skill development which necessarily fits into lead-ups to game play, BUT please keep in mind that there is a strong contextual component to what we teach and how it relates to life outside of academia. Much of what students learn in physical education class related to group dynamics, teamwork, progressions, ethics (fairness, honesty), tactics, and communication are highly sought after skills in the workplace. Plus, let’s not forget about learning about the value of fitness, how to exercise properly, and being introduced to activities that have life-long benefits.

    Art, music, AND sport and fitness are ALL vital parts of our culture and enjoyed by even the most “refined” individuals. Plus, show me an artist or musician who doesn’t care about their health, and at some time, stemming from the advice of a physician or through their own personal self-improvement goal, get involved with some exercise program or sporting activity with the aim to enhance their health and wellbeing.