Physical education in the Pacific region needs to be reshaped to bridge the gap between academic learning and sports, as it is beneficial for student’s physical prowess and academic performance.
Elisapeci Masirewa is a continuing research scholarship holder at the University of the South Pacific (USP) – currently pursuing a Master’s in Education – is exploring this in her progressing Master of Arts (MA) thesis on Balancing of Curriculum and Physical Activity in Pre-Primary School.
Masirewa said; “the curriculum in Tonga, mainly the formal learning, is running thoroughly…but physical activity is something that is lacking, which is supposed to be balanced.”
“The context of the research is Tongan-based and there is a gap in the shift from kindergarten to pre-primary school. There is a gap between kindergarten as it is play-based compared to primary school from class one to class three, where it is formal.”
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Masirewa added that formal learning with limited physical activity could be lacking for young children, as the curriculum in Tonga only consists of physical activity once a week.
The topic is also being explored by Fijian graduate student, Timoci Tavai (pictured above), who is pursuing a Masters of Arts (Thesis) at USP, titled; ‘The Application and Implementation of Physical Education in Rural Schools.’
Tavai said; “My aim is to find out how physical education trainee teachers implement what they have learnt from school into their curriculum when they get their posting to rural schools.”
Tavai also mentioned that physical trainee teachers will be checked to see if they are following the physical education curriculum or is it mainly sports-based. Timoci adds that PE is not taught, the lessons are more sports-oriented, which is what the thesis is based on.
“Part of the research is to try and advocate for specialist PE teachers to be included in the primary education sector as well. As of now, there are only a few teachers at the secondary school level but there’s none in primary school, [and] as health and wellbeing are part of the SDGs (sustainable development goals) that is what I’m trying to advocate for.”
Tavai further said; “Growing up in Fiji, students were just following the same trend as what has been done through their school time as PE was not an academic subject. As a PE specialist, I’m trying to change how PE is taught.”
In addition, Timoci said; “If we can change that then maybe we can also change how students and how stakeholders view PE as a whole. So inspiration was from me going out trying to change what was there throughout we always talk about change. So what I’m trying now is to implement that change – it’s a long road but we will get there.”