Forum Letter Replies

January 31, 2015

Providing Sporting Opportunities for All Students

We refer to the feedback on students’ participation in sports in ST’s Forum Page.

MOE is committed to providing all students with the knowledge, skills and values to lead a physically active and healthy lifestyle. Through the increase in Physical Education (PE) periods, students’ base participation in sports and physical activities has been increased to at least two hours per week. The 2014 PE Syllabus helps students develop fundamental motor skills, gain exposure to a variety of sports and participate recreationally in physical activities. For example, at secondary level, they learn at least six sports and take part in at least three intra-school sports competitions.

We have stepped up the recruitment of PE teachers and the provision of in-service training programmes. The Physical Education and Sports Teacher Academy (PESTA), set up in 2011, has been providing dedicated professional development for PE and Sports Co-Curricular Activities (CCA) teachers. In this way, we aim to have all PE classes conducted by skilled PE teachers.

There are opportunities for interested students to play more sports. Today, about one-third of our total student population, or some 160,000 students, participate in sports Co-curricular Activities (CCAs) where they play sports recreationally or compete in inter-school competitions. The rest are in Uniformed Groups, performing arts groups, clubs and societies. MOE will work with individual schools facing challenges in achieving an appropriate balance.

While schools strive to meet the diverse needs of their students, it is not possible to cater to every demand for a specific CCA. This is where parents may wish to tap on the range of sporting opportunities available in the community, eg. Sport Singapore’s ActiveSG learn-to-play sessions, workshops and camps. With strong parental and community support, we are confident of even greater student participation in sports and games, with the right balance of healthy competition and recreation.

Ms Liew Wei Li
Director
Student Development Curriculum Division
Ministry of Education

Why the young aren’t taking part in sports (Tong Yong Sheng, ST Forum, 24/1, pA46)

AS A former physical education (PE) teacher, I agree with several observations by Nominated MP Benedict Tan, who spoke in Parliament about gaps in the sports participation framework (“More S’poreans engaging in sports regularly”; Tuesday).

Indeed, there is a lack of motivation among our young to take part in sports, as well as insufficient opportunities to learn sports. Also, there is too much focus on winning medals.

These are caused by the lack of inspiring and passionate PE teachers, the over-emphasis on traditional school-level sports events, and a narrow view of PE.

PE lessons should be taught by specially trained teachers with the passion, skills and knowledge to deliver fun and engaging lessons.

Currently, many PE teachers are required to teach an academic subject on top of PE. Some schools even allow non-PE-trained teachers to teach the subject.

Also, many schoolwide sports events are organised the same way as they were a decade ago. For example, instead of having a variety of games and sports, school sports days consist of only track and field events, meaning there is minimal participation from the students, most of whom end up as spectators.

Lastly, many school leaders view PE and co-curricular activities as a springboard to awards and accolades for the school, as evidence of their positive management.

When resources are limited, participatory sports are the first to get axed, eliminating opportunities for student involvement.

Need to reshape sporting culture (Peter Chan Teng Hong, ST Forum, 26/1, pA20)

NOMINATED MP Benedict Tan has rightly questioned the motivations behind some of those who take up sports in Singapore, and highlighted worrying trends in the nation’s sports culture (“More S’poreans engaging in sports regularly”; last Tuesday).

I too am concerned about the unhealthy sporting culture here, especially in our schools.

Watching my three boys playing sports competitively for their respective schools has made me wonder whether we are “using” or developing student athletes.

I say “use” because I know of cases where student athletes, who had gained admission to schools via the Direct School Admission route, trained hard to win medals for their schools at the expense of their studies. But when they failed in their exams, they were told to leave.

What message does this send to the students?

Schools’ obsession with winning medals will turn off those who simply want to enjoy sports. It is no wonder that many students leave school with a dislike for the sports they once enjoyed.

This aversion could lead to an inactive and sedentary lifestyle later in life.

The issue is systemic, as Dr Tan rightly pointed out, and requires a holistic approach to tackling it. It requires efforts not just by the Ministry of Education, or Ministry of Health, but also the Ministry of Defence, as it has been reported that many young men shy away from physical training, and this could affect our national security.

To get students interested in sports, we should also engage the parents. We need to educate them on the value of sports to get their support.

There is much that needs to be done to reshape the sporting culture here, and parents, students, schools and the Government all have a part to play.

Schools’ focus on medals results in limited sports choices (Tan Kok Lim, ST Forum Online, 26/1)

I AGREE with Mr Tong Yong Sheng’s observation that “when resources are limited, participatory sports are the first to get axed, eliminating opportunities for student involvement” (“Why the young aren’t taking part in sports”; last Saturday).

My daughter goes to a neighbourhood primary school in the eastern part of Singapore. She is a keen badminton player, as my family play the game to keep fit. However, she is very disappointed that her school does not offer badminton as a co-curricular activity (CCA).

In fact, the school - which is doing especially well in volleyball in competitions - offers only two sports CCAs: volleyball and table tennis.

My neighbour’s son, who attends the same school and is a soccer enthusiast, is also disappointed that the school does not offer soccer as a CCA. He ended up being a Scout as he is not interested in volleyball or table tennis.

My daughter does not take part in any CCA as she is not interested in the ones offered by the school.

Schools should not focus just on sports CCAs that can win them medals, and axe other CCAs that can’t. This deprives students of a chance to learn and enjoy a wider variety of sports.

Can the Ministry of Education comment on this trend adopted by schools?

Let kids enjoy sports without pressure to succeed (Ting See Ping, ST Forum Online, 29/1)

THE school sports scene provides a platform for children to push themselves and strive for excellence, besides offering an opportunity for character building in their formative years.

But how many children want only to enjoy sports without having to constantly strive for medals (“Need to reshape sporting culture” by Mr Peter Chan Teng Hong; Monday)?

Worse, some are “pushed” into sports they dislike as “quotas” for popular ones that can bring glory to the school have been filled, causing these children to have a disdain for sports in general.

Who is to blame for this? The schools? Teachers? Parents? Or the children themselves?

The blame should lie with the system. We are assessed in every aspect of our daily lives; “sports for life” will not succeed with this approach.

While we celebrate our children’s successes, let us also encourage mass participation in sports from children who just want to enjoy the games.