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PE lessons to teach values

More than just sports


If you think that Physical Education lessons is just a moment for students to practice for NAPFA test, exercise one’s body or enjoy a good game, you may be surprised at the recent changes launched by the Singapore Sports Council in primary and secondary schools.  The Council sees much more potential in sports than merely as a platform for physical education; it is a platform for moral education as well. How does playing a sport or sometimes simply running around a field help to mould our students into citizens of values? How will the training of muscles lead to the strengthening of moral fibres?

Game for life

It’s all made possible by a carefully designed toolkit named ‘Game for Life’, which includes plans for educators to craft lessons during which character education can be conducted. The toolkit provides a framework, which is essentially a three-step actions to make PE lessons effective for moral education: identifying the values and attributes of good character; establishing the platforms through which desirable values can be developed; and executing a purposeful action plan for intentional teaching and effective values development.

Moments in sports

If you are puzzled by the framework, which may sound abstract to you, let’s recall a few moments when we were playing sports. Do you still remember the time when you were part of an ‘underdog’ basketball team that, through the

PE lessons to teach values

PE lessons to teach values

effort of each team member, won the championship? Do you still remember the time when you went for an outdoor adventure where you took care of your group mates like brothers and sisters and where difficulties and injuries bonded all of you closer than ever? Or do you still remember the last 2.4km run, or an even longer marathon, where you were constantly fighting against the tempting thought of giving up but finally you crossed the finishing line, collapsing to the ground, exhausted yet proud of your achievement? As you may notice, sports is rich with  moments that provide character education with first-hand and often personal examples. The purpose of Game for Life is to capture such passing moments so that you will not forget them but actively analyse and recall them as materials of reflection.

Changes for teachers

As the program brings PE lessons to a higher plane, it also demands higher professional standard from our PE teachers. Teachers who only know the techniques and rules of sports certainly do not meet the standard of the program. They need to have discerning eyes to discover ‘teachable’ moments in sports, be articulate enough to explain the learning points to their students and have the passion to inspire students. Not all PE teachers are good at all those aspects. Moreover, it is reasonable to expect that not all PE teachers are willing to go out of their comfort zone and conduct moral reflection with their students. It is both skill and an attitude. Hence training of teachers under the program is needed to maximize the benefits students have from the education.

Changes for students

Moreover, the whole program may have huge implication for Physical Education as a whole: it helps to professionalize the education even more. It is a common perception that PE lessons is a time when students can relax and have fun. Active engagement of mind isn’t really necessary. After all, doing pull-up seems much less sophisticated than solving a maths problem. However, if the program is being launched nationwide, students will realize that doing pull-up may not just be a repetitive process. They will be questioned by instructors on what makes them persevere when faced with ‘bottleneck’, where they find it extremely hard to increase the number of pulls. Playing a soccer game may not just be about winning or losing. Players may be challenged to share what leadership qualities they have seen their fellow players displaying and what better role they can play next time when doing teamwork of any sort. With the program in place, solving a maths problem may be a welcome alternative to those unwilling to observe, reflect and share. But that’s what makes the program valuable.

As can be seen, the program represents a paradigm shift in the mind set of both teachers and students. The initiative drives home the point that sports is not just about competition. It is much more than that. It offers a window into the personality and character of everyone involved. At the moment of excitement, restraints may be forgotten and hence one’s true self will be displayed. Such are precious moments of understanding of oneself and others that lead to much more effective growth than any of the moral education in classroom may achieve.

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