Dubai: Only one out of five schools in Dubai fulfils the recommended duration of physical activity per week, according to the latest survey by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) on physical activity and physical education in schools — pointing out to the dire need for PE guidelines and standards.
Apart from the non-adherence to the recommended level of physical activity, almost half the schools (47 per cent) flout the guideline that prohibits schools from substituting physical education (PE) classes with other activities.
The survey, jointly conducted with the Dubai Statistics Centre, and based on 208 schools — 65 governmental and 143 private, excluding kindergartens, was aimed at determining physical activity standards across schools in Dubai, including facilities and teachers’ qualifications and experience in physical training.
The findings identify gaps that need to be addressed said senior officials from the DHA to ensure that physical education is a compulsory subject, and that students in primary/elementary schools get 150 minutes (more than three classes) per week, and in secondary schools, 225 minutes (more than four classes).
According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, physical activity promotes health and fitness; builds healthy bones and muscles; reduces the risk of developing obesity, and risk factors for diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease; reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression; and can positively impact concentration, memory, and classroom behaviour.
Laila Al Jassmi, CEO of Health Policy and Strategy Sector at the DHA, said that the survey results are vital to further develop and strengthen physical education in Dubai schools using evidence-based data.
The information will be used to tailor new guidelines covering physical exercise as well as healthy eating habits.
Gulf News reported earlier this year that the Authority planned to implement international best practice for physical activity in schools, and introduce unified education curriculum in physical activity.
Dr Fathia Hatim Al Maazmi, head of Health Promotion Section, Public Health and Safety Department, Health Policy and Strategy Sector at the DHA said that children tend to be influenced by adults, and seeing that the majority of the adult population in Dubai does not exercise, it is important to reinforce good lifestyle habits from a young age.
Schools are the most effective environments in this regard, she said speaking to Gulf News. She explained that physical education should focus on the concept of health-related fitness. The survey revealed that 69.5 per cent of schools integrate this into their PE programme.
“The concept is based on five components — muscular strength, muscular endurance, cardiovascular endurance [stamina], flexibility and body composition. These need to be incorporated in various PE programmes,” she said.
The survey also put forth recommendations including mandatory physical education, and annual professional development for PE teachers.