In the past, Physical Education (PE) might not have been the most engaging subject, underpinned by the fact that it was removed from the South African curriculum in 1994. Reintroduced in 2013 as part of the new national CAPS (Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement) curriculum, PE had to be reimagined, driven by the priority of establishing a lifelong love of movement among learners.
However, the reintroduction did not come without problems, the most noticeable being a lack of properly trained PE teachers. The reason for this is that the majority of post 1994 teachers could not partake in PE training classes, since courses were removed from tertiary education institutions when the subject was no longer taught in schools. The result is that many classroom-based teachers now do not have the skills to sufficiently engage learners during PE classes, often lacking the ability to provide instruction on the required appropriate movement activities that assist with specific development.
It is here where Embury Institute for Teacher Education (Embury) has a major role to play. After having identified the need for proper PE teacher training, they developed a number of unique courses to address a common lack of skills among teachers. According to Johan Human, CEO of Embury, the courses offered at the institute aim to effectively communicate the concept of PE as a subject, just as the new CAPS curriculum intends. “For learners, the importance of curriculum based PE training cannot be undervalued, and this starts with enthusiastic, knowledgeable and qualified teachers,” he notes.
The change in PE
With the new CAPS curriculum placing a significant emphasis on movement, Embury’s future teachers are taught how to ‘break down’ different types of movements, such as skipping, leaps, jumps, forward rolls and gallops. While this may seem elementary, there are learners who struggle with these basic physical activities or locomotor movements, and it is these skills that set the foundation for future development. Embury’s training aims to foster a love of movement amongst teachers and learners – a leap away from the modern, sedentary lifestyle that is detrimental to health and well-being.
Apart from a lack of training skills, modern PE teachers also face other challenges, such as large classes and an absence of sport facilities. To counter these obstacles, PE teachers are taught to create ‘workstations’: any particular PE activity that takes place within a small group in any accommodating space that doesn’t have to be as big as a sports field. Each PE session starts with a warm-up routine and ends with a cool-down. Activity in each session will shift towards the different workstations, where learners (irrespective of body type) are kept busy with distinct types of movements or skills, with the idea being that they are engaged for the entire session and continuously moving. This approach aims to teach a positive attitude towards a more active lifestyle.
Embury’s overall offering ties in with 21st century teaching, with the use of workstations being a tactic of the ‘flipped classroom’ teaching approach. The workstation essentially becomes ‘the teacher’ while learners contemplate completing the required task.
The importance of PE
There are a number of benefits to PE if taught correctly, of which a good skeletal structure and posture, improved gross and fine motor skills, and the development of core muscles, are perhaps the more obvious examples. However, PE can also influence learners’ concentration skills, often marked by less fidgety, more focussed behaviour during class. “Without them knowing, learners are taught social-, team- and leadership skills, and even gain an understanding of their own space and balance, while also addressing visual and auditory processes for the individual,” Human notes.
The PE courses on offer at Embury are extensive, catering to both full time students and existing teachers. Embury offers PE as a subject to Foundation Phase teachers and as a major in Intermediate Phase Teaching. For schools wishing to prepare current classroom teachers to present PE classes masterfully, there are three short courses on offer as part of Embury’s continued professional teacher development programmes. In addition to these programmes Embury is in the process of developing post graduate qualifications with a focus on equipping practicing teachers with the skills needed to become experts in PE.
Furthermore, Embury is an official training partner of the Physical Education Institute of South Africa (PEISA), a non-profit company established to reinforce the instruction of PE and to act as a catalyst for promoting PE in schools. Indeed, according to Norman Mphake, Founding Director of PEISA, Embury shares the institute’s ideal of a country where all learners, of all abilities, will increase their participation in high quality, well organised curriculum-orientated PE. “It has been an arduous journey to get Physical Education reintroduced into the curriculum and to elevate its status within the current education discourse, and the impressive PE training on offer at Embury forms part of our broader vision for PE training in South Africa,” Mphake states.
“While PE classes were perhaps in the past not taken seriously, Embury’s commitment to provide high quality, curriculum-focused PE training to teachers, shows our firm belief in the importance of this subject to learners. Indeed, in a world where a digital lifestyle might not equate an active one, PE for learners are now more important than ever before.” Human concludes.”