May 22, 2024

Crisis in school sports

According to the German Cities Association, the number of canceled lessons in sports is higher than average. And: Physical education lessons in schools are increasingly led by non-professional staff. (Alliance photo/DPA/Central News Agency-Sentralbild/Sebastian Kannert)

Hardly any other subject attracts students as much as physical education. Some people like to compete with others and get moving, while others feel left behind and react negatively and frustrated. According to state ministries of education, exercise in schools is very important: physical education makes an “irreplaceable contribution to comprehensive education and upbringing”.

There are supposed to be three gym classes a week, but that doesn't usually work. There are many reasons for this: too few trained sports teachers, dilapidated sports facilities, and a backlog of renovation work due to cash-strapped municipal budgets.

“Of course, mathematics and German are seen as more important than sports,” says Helena Harri, a student from Thuringia and spokeswoman for the state student council. Her observation: Other subjects are given priority by education ministries.

The status quo on school sports is difficult to lift

It is difficult to determine current figures for the state of school sports in Germany; For example, the cancellation of lessons in sports is not recorded separately, say the Culture Ministries when asked by Deutschlandfunk. The last comprehensive study of school sports in Germany was published in 2006, almost 20 years ago.

Some research applications have been rejected, according to Philipp Mies, professor of physical education and health at the Technical University of Munich. “People avoid experimental studies because they will reveal what may not be useful for health and education policy.”

Physical education is not just a performance test

In school, the focus should be on the joy of movement, students and educational researchers agree. Sport should be taken into account not only in physical education lessons, but also in lessons and during breaks.

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“School relocation” concepts can be better implemented, for example, by changing the architecture, explains Mays. This is demonstrated by examples from Scandinavian countries. If there are sports facilities in the school grounds, they will be used.

He also points to the dual mission of physical education: “Education through sport and through sport. We can stimulate everyone's interest in sport and use sporting activities to communicate educational objectives in other ways, such as fair play.”

Mays says a fairer classification could be made by including criteria other than just widths and heights. Helena Harry adds that more attention should also be paid to progress in performance and learning skills.

She also wants physical education classes that help students break their inhibitions. “You're not born with inhibitions, they're taught to you over time, especially during puberty.”

More variety in sports

The school curriculum often includes classical sports: athletics, gymnastics, swimming and then ball sports. Student Harry says that if there was a greater range of sports on offer, students would have more options. This would lead to significantly more motivation.

The school can also teach healthy movement-related skills through theoretical input, says sports scientist Mays. This can improve students' health in the long term. Various studies have shown this. However, there must be a balance between theory and practice. Otherwise, the sport will lose its unique selling point.

For example, there are collaborations with sports clubs and many other good local solutions for all-day viewing, says Mays. However, due to federal structures in education policy, it is not disseminated at the national level. The educational researcher would like to see more integration and better communication here.

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