Physical education and sport for healthy lifestyle and social development

This Caribbean in which we live is currently in the throes of a crisis that can be at best minimised if only we are appropriately prepared. The crisis has to do with the onslaught of non-communicable diseases (NCD). Happily, however, the National Olympic Committees (NOC) of the Caribbean are not prepared to leave things as they are and certainly are not waiting on the governments of the region to get their act together. That could take forever. More importantly, whenever governments get involved their primary concern is about getting re-elected and/or giving directions to sporting organisations which are not under their control.
During the period 3 – 4 December 2012 the Caribbean Association of National Olympic Committees (CANOC) hosted a workshop in Kingston, Jamaica, under the theme, Promoting the value of physical education and sport for healthy lifestyle and social development.
There were 25 participants from 14 National Olympic Committees and one Commonwealth Games Association in attendance. Participation was excellent as the presentations were very well researched and delivered.
The Framework
Professor Neville Ying, Former Principal of the Mona Graduate School of Business, set the context for workshop as follows:
Physical Education and Sport must be seen in the context of sustainable development. Ying suggested therefore that the workshop must address the three pillars of sustainable development:

  • The Social
  • The Economic
  • The Environment

The workshop therefore focused on:

  • Health and Wellness
  • Personal development
  • Policies

The process of the workshop featured:

  1. Presentations and discussion
  2. Group discussions
  3. Group reports emphasizing recommendations for post workshop actions

Physical Education
Vilma Charlton, a Jamaican Olympian and lecturer in Physical Education, UWI reminded all that Physical education is as old as the human race. The ancient Greeks, the Germans and many Europeans called it gymnastics in 19th Century, consequently it developed as a process through gymnastics, utilising a range of physical activities.
Military engaged in Physical activity
Charlton recounted the long struggle engaged in for physical education to be included on the curriculum of educational institutions. Thankfully, the protagonists for recognition have gained increased support given the plethora of research on the many benefits to be derived from participation in physical education, including:

  • Good health
  • Physical fitness
  • Growth and development
  • Social development
  • Friendliness
  • Camaraderie
  • Cooperation
  • Respect for the rights of others
  • Emotional development
  • Mental development

Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) in the Caribbean – A Reality Check
Dr. Colette Cunningham-Myrie, Lecturer, Department of Community Health and Psychiatry, UWI, Mona, addressed the status of NCDs in the Caribbean. The situation is at best grim.
NCD’s today the world’s major challenge
In Jamaica today, NCDs are the major cause of death. This pattern is essentially the same in different Caribbean countries. There has been little change in the causes of death in the region between 1985 and 2000 for both men and women.
Jamaica – analysis of diseases impacting people between 2000 and 2008 reveal some changes in terms of increases rather than decreases, with the exception of cholesterol, which declined.
The critical risk factors identified included a more sedentary lifestyle, cigarette smoking, obesity, too much salt, poor diet and alcohol intake. Possible solutions revolve around continuing to track the situation, encouraging changes, promotion of progressive policies and involvement of educators, NGOs, media, service clubs, economists, sociologists, athletes, high profile individuals and organisations. There is need for advocacy everywhere.
Physical Education in the development of National Health and Well Being Dr. Joyce Graham-Royal, Education Officer, Physical Education, Ministry of Education, Jamaica, observed that in 2007 CARICOM decided to take on the fight against NCDs at a meeting in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. According to her, the value of physical education and sport to human flourishing is critical…and can be considered a human right. Wellbeing and physical education are inextricably linked.
Dr Graham-Royal also stated, it is important to provide community facilities for encouraging physical activity amongst the entire nation. Governments must allocate more resources to PE and Sport in much the same way and same quantities that they allocate to Mathematics and Geography. They must understand that PE and Sport can in fact aid children in learning the same Mathematics and Geography etc.
She also highlighted the Cuban approach where physical activity begins with pregnant mothers who must exercise in preparation to having their babies. Children, including of those with special needs, exercise and interact with older people while doing so. Young adults exercise and so too entire communities.
The effects of Sport on Academic Performance
Ms Simone De Gannes-Lange, Lecturer at University of Trinidad and Tobago, provided evidence from a case study of the Debe Secondary School (a four-year exercise). The study revealed that students involved in sport transferred what was learnt in sport into their other subject classes. A type of fraternity and support system developed between the sports participants. Interestingly, four of five students involved in sport felt ostracised or isolated yet for them sport was perceived as a means out of poverty. Sport became the basis of all that they did.
Importantly participation in sport led to a significant decline in deviant behaviours among African males and the values learnt in sport were carried through their everyday life.
On the other hand non-sporting students did not see the importance of PE and sport and did not like to perspire. They thought that sport students had an air about them because of their talent and were overrated. They also thought that sport students received more attention all around.
The researched found a positive association between sport and academic performance; sport is a motivation to stay in school
Linking physical education and sport programmes with sport for all
Ms Claudette Jones, President, Physical Education Association, Jamaica, and school principal, focused on the importance on establishing a sustainable link between physical education and sport for all.
In 1975 UNESCO’s International Charter on Physical Education and Sport deemed the twin disciplines a fundamental right of all and drew reference to the provision of adequate facilities and equipment in this regard.
In 1999 the 3rd International Conference of Ministers and Senior Officials responsible for Physical Education and Sport (MINEPSIII) committed to a focus on sport for all with particular attention to the participation of children and women.
Sport for all has been getting very little attention in the Caribbean. Sport for all is to facilitate all of society accessing the full range of benefits of an active lifestyle such that staring with the children people adopt an approach that guides them through their entire lives. Sport for all must be FUN
It was suggested that PE is a cost-effective way to influence the next generation
Ms Jones noted that in planning facilities governments often ignore the inclusion of walking paths for those willing to engage in physical exercise outside of competitive sport.  She appealed for Ministries of Education to treat PE Teachers the same as they do other subject teachers. For example, they do not provide equipment for their work while science teachers are not expected to make their own equipment. They are provided with all. Governments must be constantly reminded of the Charters to which they have affixed their signatures and the implications for the country and the region’s development.
The integration of policies
Dr. Maria Smith, Project Coordinator, UNESCO, called for the integration of policies of the Ministries of Education, Youth, Sport, Social Development, Health, Social and Community Development. There must be dialogue.
Sport must be treated as a pillar for sustainable development. The region must create opportunities to attain and share Best Practices and facilitate research for development. It is important that the peoples of the Caribbean develop of our own theory re development through sport; theories rooted in our own experience as Caribbean people
An appeal was made for documentation of the programmes, methodologies, strategies and practices of practitioners of sport and physical education in the Caribbean.
There were other presenters, all of whom made sterling contributions to the excellent workshop. Suffice it to state here that space does not permit detailing their merits.
Of most importance is the fact that at the end of the workshop the following emerged:
Foremost among the issues was the role of PE and Sport in the fight against NCDs in the Caribbean and the importance of research in this field
A second issue was the importance of research in evaluating the relationship between sport and academic performance
Thirdly, there was some interest in locating the Arts in the overall scheme of things re the development of our peoples.
Fourthly, there are several programmes on the media on sport in different Caribbean countries that must be used to aid in the promotion of the on-going debate on PE and Sport
The CANOC Brand emerged from the Workshop with an enhanced level of recognition/appreciation. Many saw CANOC as well placed to influence governments of the region as well as agencies both within and outside the Caribbean that have the capacity to aid the region in the development of PE and Sport with the ultimate objective of facilitating the emergence of the Ideal Caribbean Person as conceptualised by the CARICOM leaders several years ago.