Attitudes Towards Physical Education Course Among Foreign National Students Receiving Education

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1.1       Background

The health, social, psychological and economic benefits of an active lifestyle are undisputed and its significance has been acknowledged by the World Health Organisation (2015).  At present it appears that we are losing the fight against inactivity and obesity in young people.  According to Charlotte (2010) we are raising the most sedentary and unhealthy generation in history. Sport and Physical Education (PE) have far reaching consequences and is much more than a “nice to have” as some people perceive them to be. The importance of PE as a subject is reflected in the UNESCO, International Conference on Education (2010) position paper, which holds that all children have the right of access to PE and that it has the potential to contribute to the lifelong education of the child in a holistic way. Based on the overwhelming proven benefits of PE and sport, one would assume that justifying the maintenance or inclusion of the subject in the school curriculum would be a straightforward task with little opposition. However, the existence of PE in schools is under continuous threat.  An overview of the literature on the global status of PE highlights the non-existence of the subject in many parts of the world in both the developed and developing regions (Hardman, 2010).   Some national governments proposed either the removal of it from the curriculum or a reduced curriculum time allocation (Hardman, 2010).

Despite the re-introduction of daily PE in Australian state schools, the subject has a poor branding image in the country, which starkly contrasts with the successful branding of sport (Chan, 2008). There is far greater recognition of the contribution of sport throughout the community (Saunders, 2009). In dealing with the problem of inactivity among children, the Australian government turned to the sporting community and not to the PE profession (Saunders, 2009). The concern is that unless the PE profession can find a more relevant and strident voice, the delivery of activity in schools will be pursued without it and it will be condemned to a persistent marginalised state in a world of change and opportunity (Saunders, 2009).

In New Zealand, the concern is more on deficiencies and the quality of teaching and learning rather than on image of the subject, its curriculum and time allocation which is usually met

(Hollard, 2007). Elsewhere in the region, the Pacific islands countries generally adhere to the

‘mixed messages’ theme from a non-existing PE programme in Nauru and no primary school PE in American Samoa, through limited growth of PE and school sport in Guam and growing stature of the subject in the Cook Islands to an integral curriculum role for PE in Kiribati to weekly PE and sport in Tuvalu (Skinner, 2010).

Schools in the developing world have not been spared to the diminishing status and the demise of PE. In several Latin American countries, recent legislation has made PE in elementary and middle schools a compulsory subject, but timetable allocation, for which there are no legal prescriptions, is generally low (Tubino, 2009). Despite the legislation requirement, in most countries (Chile and Colombia are exceptions); there has been a decrease in the actual number of PE classes (Anon, 2008).

On the African continent, and specifically in South Africa, PE no longer exists as an independent subject but it is incorporated as a component of the learning area “Life Orientation” along with health promotion, personal and social development, and orientation to the world of work foci in grades R-9 (Van Deventer, 2011).  Furthermore, in some primary schools PE is not presented as per time allocation stipulated in the national curriculum. Learning areas such as Literacy and

Numeracy are given extra time in these schools as the development of programmes are the responsibility of the schools and can be discarded on discretion of school administrators” (Hardman, 2014). Besides its reinstatement, institutions are struggling to convince the government to offer it in schools (Du Toit et al., 2006).


The major challenges associated with the reinstatement of PE in both established and nonindustrialized societies include: inadequate time to implement the curriculum optimally, educators who are not sufficiently qualified, low prestige of the subject due to the absence of theoretical assessment of learners, and practical problems involving cultural assortment in classes (Baloka, 2013). On the other hand, the major challenges facing schools in developing countries are the lack of available apparatus and facilities and discipline problems (Van Deventer, 2011).

In Botswana PE is time-tabled but inadequately resourced and there are very few qualified PE teachers (Toriola, 2010). Scarcity of facilities and adequately trained staff are commonly reported throughout the continent as are the fringe value of the curriculum (regarded as noneducational, non-productive use of time and as recreation/play time especially in primary schools), and insufficient monitoring inspections in secondary schools e.g. in Benin, Botswana and Uganda (Nkongo, 2011). Generally, priority is accorded to language and Mathematics with even meagre PE resources often diverted to other subjects. In some countries, like Malawi PE for girls often suffers from ‘optional status’ with many preferring not to take part; this situation is exacerbated by a dearth of amenities such as changing rooms (Ndee, 2009).

A cursory overview of PE in Namibia, suggest that the status of the subject is diminishing rapidly at school level. PE in senior secondary schools (Grade 11-12) is regarded as a nonpromotional subject and, therefore, has low status, get little support from school managers and is frequently taught by un-qualified teachers (Simataa, 2013).  It is at this level of learning where physical inactivity is experienced by these learners as they are exposed to an ever growing range of sedentary alternatives to physical activity, which includes; television, chat rooms, mobile phones, computer games and the internet (Stergiadis, 2014).



1.2       Statement of the Problem

PE has been shown to have major health, social and psychological benefits (Stergiadis, 2014), that render its significance in the school curriculum indisputable.  However, an overview of the status of PE globally suggests that there is a significant decline in the offering of the subject in schools (Hardman 2010). The decline or non-existence of PE in schools is also evident in developing countries (Anon, 2008).  The main aim of the current study was to assess the current status of the subject in senior secondary schools in the Zambezi Region of Namibia. Since teachers are knowledge givers and learners are knowledge recipients, this could close the teaching-learning gap and wipe out the stereotype and prejudice that currently exist on the status of PE in Namibia. Moreover, the study’s results could encourage stakeholders to make

meaningful contributions towards PE in order for all to help to improve the status of the subject for the benefit of the learner’s well-being.

Attitudes towards physically active lifestyles are instilled at school level (Hardman, 2014). These may either be positive or negative. Whichever way this goes depends on what learners learn from their teachers. Thus, it can be concluded that the future of PE lies in the hands of PE teachers since they function at grass-root level, face to face with pupils (Anon, 2008). What they do and how they do it, will be absolutely critical to the future of the subject and the profession in the Zambezi Region of Namibia. Knowledge and an understanding of the attitudes of learners toward physical activity and their perceptions of PE classes are important as they can influence an individual’s decision to begin or to continue participation in an activity (Stein, 2013). In order for PE to beresponsive to the needs of all children, it should reflect the culture in which it is practiced. PE is continually challenged by the needs of learners in a rapidly changing socio-economic environment.  This goal can only be realized if we remain cognizant of the attitudes of learners towards PE (Stergiadis, 2014).

Deficiencies which led to the demise of the subject in the educational programme were discovered through empirical research. The PE syllabus in senior secondary schools is the guidelines intended to accomplish specific educational goals. The current study, therefore, was intended to help identify deficiencies in the educational programmes in order to rectify them. It is also hoped that the information obtained from the study will form the basis for recommendations to the relevant authorities on areas that need to be improved or changed in senior secondary schools or in the curriculum to better serve the needs of the Namibian nation and specifically the teaching and learning of PE in schools (Santo, 2010).


1.3       Aim

This study’s aim was to investigate the perceptions and attitudes of secondary school learners from the Zambezi Region of Namibia towards PE.


1.4       Objectives

The objectives were:

Phase 1

1.To investigate current status of PE at senior secondary schools:

  1. Whether the subject is included in the school time-table and offered.
  2. How often it is offered.
  3. Whether it offered to both boys and girls.
  4. Whether it is taught by qualified PE teachers
  5. What facilities are available for PE
  6. Perceptions and attitudes of learners towards PE (quantitative)

Phase 2

1.To explore the perceptions and attitudes of learners towards PE (qualitative).


1.5       Research Questions

  1. What is the status of PE in secondary schools in the Zambezi district of Namibia in consideration to whether the PE is offered at school, how regularly is it offered and whether it is offered to both boys and girls?
  2. What are the learners’ insight perceptions and attitudes towards the status of PE as a school subject?


1.6        Hypothesis for Quantitative Analysis

The attitudes and perceptions of most of the learners towards PE as a school subject are that it occupies a low status within the school curriculum and they have a very negative attitude towards the subject.



1.7       Definition of terms


Attitude – refers tothe way you think and feel about someone or something, a feeling or way of


thinking that affects a person’s behaviour, a way of thinking and behaving that people regard as


unfriendly, rude (Webster, 2014).

Curriculum – refers to the lessons and academic content taught in a school or in a specific course or program (Curriculum, 2014).

Physical Education (PE) – refers to formal classes at school in which children are taught how to play games, sport and dance activities by rules and regulations (Alexandra, 2007).

Physical fitness – refers to a general state of health and well-being and, more specifically, the ability to perform aspects of sports or occupations (Brandon, 2009).

Sedentary lifestyle – is a lifestyle with no or irregular physical activity (Stergiadis, 2014).


1.8       Thesis Structure

Chapter one serves as an introduction to the study.  It outlines the background of the study, statement of the problem, aims and objectives of the study, research questions definitions of concepts and summary of research methodology are all briefly discussed in this chapter.

Reviewed literatures are presented in chapter two; furthermore, this chapter provides an overview of literature on teachers and learners perceptions and attitudes on PE as a school subject. Furthermore, the chapter outlines theories on attitudes and perceptions related to the topic.


Chapter three outlines the study’s methodology and research design. This chapter describes what was done, how it was done, what was needed, what data gathering devices were employed with an evaluation of validity and reliability. Moreover, the chapter outlines how the sources of data were selected and how data were analysed to reach conclusions.

The results and a discussion of the quantitative data are presented in chapter four. The qualitative data are discussed in chapter five. Chapter six provides a summary, recommendations conclusion regarding the findings of the current study.



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