There's a place for sports in 'quality' education
Recently at a staff development seminar I once again had a most profound opportunity to reaffirm that education is an ongoing, never-ending process.
The seminar was immensely useful in re-establishing misplaced knowledge, reinvigorating the participants and expanding our views on quality education.
The seminar was held under the theme "Providing Quality Education for Every Munronian -- Everybody's Business, Everyday". Glenford Smith was the chief presenter and oh what an awesome job he did. Thank you sir!
By breaking the theme into sections and then defining each piece we created a fulsome framework for the discussions that followed. Consequent to this exercise was the idea that the place of sports in the provision of "quality education" is woefully misplaced.
Asserting that a "Quality Education" should increase the value of an individual by facilitating his/her holistic development of his/her unique competencies (skills) leads me to think of the many failures of our education system. Not least among which is the priority, treatment and place of sports in the system.
Typically, even with the mega successes of our athletes globally, sport is seen as "extra-curricular" activity, meaning that it is not important or does not warrant any priority or place of significance in our schools. Consequently, sporting excellence in our schools is not exalted nor is it, normally, coalesced with the primary function (academic delivery) of the schools. Rather it is vilified as a hindrance to academic performance and excellence. On the flip side of the said coin are the schools that pursue sporting excellence without much hurrah for "Quality Education". Hence, there is a plethora of "where are they now", in reference to former high school star athletes (all sports, not just track and field), a large number of "poorly educated" former athletes, and plain "failures" numbered among our populace.
The sum total of the aforementioned is a system that engenders, propagates and embodies failure. Our perspective that education equals academic pursuits is in stark contrast to the definition of "Quality Education". Academic pursuit is absolutely important and purposeful. Yet the world is replete with success stories of persons who were able to optimize other skill sets that may be defined as non-academic. Usain Bolt is a living testimony; Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Garnet Silk, Michael Jackson have left enviable legacies not founded on academic excellence.
In his autobiography Bolt professed the role and influence of his teachers who identified and nurtured his early athletic development. I can just imagine the countless "other" Usain Bolts that were discouraged, demonised, berated and isolated for having little more than a keen interest in a non-academic aspect of school life.
As a teacher for more than 17 years I have seen kids who had little or no interest in general academia, but who were excellent in sport, art, music, cuisine and other non-academic areas. Have the schools provided them with a "quality education?" In the majority of instances, I believe not.
Yet I have seen student athletes develop keen appreciation for academia where their coaches and teachers encourage both, where permission to participate in sports is tied to academic output, where academic subjects are integrated into the sport. For example, a football is spherical (close enough to the geoidal shape of the earth) it has an imaginary half- way line that divides the ball horizontally (the equator) and one that divides it vertically (the prime meridian). Furthermore, in a simple game of football each player without thinking incorporates numerous academic principles from Mathematics, Physics, Geometry, Social Studies, Language Arts, among others. Unfortunately, the teaching of sport like most academic subjects, in most schools (presumably) are not integrated but are rather treated as isolated subjects onto themselves.
Deep analysis will reveal the sully attitudes that exist toward certain subjects such as the skilled areas like Woodwork, Welding, Auto Mechanic, Food and Nutrition, Visual Arts, Music and Physical Education. Physical Education (PE) is still seen as running up and down even though it is now on the CSEC list of subject for almost a decade. Yet the sport sndustry is growing and will flourish sooner than later, including fields such as physical trainers, coaches, physical therapists, psychologists, field curators, masseurs and masseuses, events managers, among others.
"Quality Education" adds value, enables optimisation, is unbiased and is all encompassing. "Quality Education" develops the individual in totality; it facilitates the physical, emotional, social, spiritual/moral, and intellectual aspects of an individual.
Annually, I teach about the "individual" in my Social Studies classes, invariably the coaching courses I have been to speak to "Understanding and Developing the Individual". Hence, as a teacher/coach I am called upon everyday to attend to these elements of each individual. Notwithstanding, the system only judges and rewards us teachers for excellence in one aspect of the development of "Individuals", their intellect. Who is to be blamed, therefore, when we have so many dysfunctional individuals, physical retards, immoral geniuses, and emotional time bombs amongst us?
Like it or not sport is a viable career option as are the arts and vocational areas. Like it or not our country is over flown with immoral bigots. Like it or not there are numerous physical retards, emotional wrecks and dysfunctional "Individuals" in our midst.
A change of attitude can determine greatly how much "quality" is in the "education" our children receive.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Andrew Edwards is an assistant coach of the National Under-20 squad and the current head coach of daCosta Cup team Munro College.