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24 Abr 2008

An Intervention of Physical Activity and Health in the Danish Educational System

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My name is Børge Koch. I am educated as a grade school teacher (specialised in physical education and geography). After 14 years in the school system as both a teacher and assistant principal, I have gone on to seek a Master of Education, with physical education as a major.

Autor(es): D. Borge Koch
Entidades(es): Profesor del Centre for Higher Education South Jutland
Congreso: III Simposio Internacional de la CC de la Actividad Física y el Deporte
Pontevedra: 24-26 de Abril de 2008
ISBN: 978-84-612-3517-9
Palabras claves: dinamarca, educación física

Who am I – where do I work – and with what?

My name is Børge Koch. I am educated as a grade school teacher (specialised in physical education and geography). After 14 years in the school system as both a teacher and assistant principal, I have gone on to seek a Master of Education, with physical education as a major. I am employed at University College South, where I am the director of a knowledge centre for health, diet and exercise – primarily for children and young adults. I am here at the conference speaking about physical education and health in the Danish school system, because the knowledge centre has been appointed by the Danish Ministry of Education to put focus on the quality of physical education and health in grade schools.

The role of the school in Denmark

There are 9 years of compulsory education in Denmark. This means that most children attend a public grade school or private school for 9 or 10 years. Children can start school during the year in which they turn 5. Often, children in Denmark do not start school until they are 6. On starting school, parents can choose to start their child in a kindergarten/nursery class (introductory year to grade school). 97% of all Danish children start in kindergarten. The last 3% start directly in 1st grade. Kindergarten will become obligatory beginning in the summer of 2008.

Grade school legislation anno 2006

Together with parents, the Danish elementary/primary and lower secondary school system is to give students qualifications and skills that: prepare them for a higher education and make them want to learn more, familiarize them with Danish culture and history, give them an understanding of other countries and cultures, contribute to their understanding of mankind’s interaction with nature, and promote the individual student’s all-round development. The elementary and lower secondary school system is to develop work methods and create a suitable environment for discovery, absorption, and drive so students develop acknowledgement and imagination and develop faith in their own abilities and background to take a stance and act. The system is to prepare students for participation, co-responsibility, rights and obligations in a society with freedom and democracy. The school’s work, therefore, must be characterized by intellectual liberty, equality and democracy. In other words, the Danish elementary and lower secondary schools’ primary task is general education. The Danish school system is built up around a whole series of subjects. Students encounter the following subjects in their 9 or 10 years in grade school: Danish; mathematics; English; Christianity; history; social studies; physical education; music; art; crafts; woodworking; nature/technology; geography; biology; French; German; health, sex and family education; writing; career guidance, physics/chemistry, road safety and traffic education, and a whole range of optional courses (photography, media, work introduction) All of the courses are to contribute to the general education of each student throughout their schooling. Students have 2-3 hours of physical education in each year of grade school, i.e., physical education accounts for approx. 8.3% of students’ total schooling. NO time is scheduled for health education. Health education in Danish grade school is an interdisciplinary theme to which all subjects contribute. Time for education is taken from the remainder of the subject’s time.

The subjects’ contribution to fulfilling this task – physical education as a school subject

The legislation on physical education (Areas of Core Knowledge and Proficiency) provides that the education shall consist of versatile forms of exercise, basic motor skills, lines of action in sport and knowledge about the body and sport. This means that practice and theory must be combined in the education in such a way so that the student has the opportunity and the conditions needed to understand their experiences and realizations that they gain or have the opportunity to gain in physical education. In the students’ learning process, three dimensions should be involved: namely impression (sensation), expression (action) and communication (discussion) concerning body, exercise, sport and togetherness. Danish grade schools’ physical education and health education shall build upon WHO’s concept of health (1). For many Danish children, school is the place where, for the first time, they are acquainted with general physical education. Until the age of 6-7, only a few children belong to a sports club, and some (approx. 30%) never become active in a sports association/club. It is particularly the childhood years that form the foundation for the development of body culture and exercise habits and thereby the desire to use one’s body throughout one’s life. Physical education in grade school must teach children about the connection between physical activity, health and lifelong physical activity. In the next section I will address what and how the school tries to help the student develop “tools”/skills that work and can be used for the rest of their lives.

What skills can a PHYSICAL EDUCATION class help develop in a student?

The school’s physical education should develop the physical, mental and social aspects that lie in the concept of health and thereby contribute to the students becoming active individuals. To fulfil grade school’s aim and purpose (physical education), which is that the education should build on an overall view of the child/student, PHYSICAL EDUCATION must be considered as a knowledgebuilding subject, where theory and practice are combined, while, at the same time, students acquire skills that will prepare them for / make them aware of the importance of a life with physical activity – even after their school years (LIFELONG PHYSICAL ACTIVITY). Action skills and physical education. In the context of physical education, developing action skills means that each student should both gain all-round knowledge of the body, i.e. learn to feel his/her body, gain experience through the body, and use the body to express himself, as well as to gain enough insight to be able to take a critical stance and act in relation to everyday life and the opportunities for physical activity that are offered in society. The Danish theoretician Hans Jørgen Kristensen’s model is intended as a “basic model” for the starting point that is sport’s “inner interdisciplinary” nature. Two models that are generally very connected are the following:

Physical education’s “contribution” to general action skill.

Physical education in school must contain some aspects that are often difficult to access in the other school subjects. Physical education’s “contribution” to general action skill is shown in the following model: “Personal skills” refers to those skills that involve the effective and cognitive dimensions in the student. Feelings and intellect are significant for the student’s sensitivity to his surroundings and his awareness of self in relation to those surroundings. Personal skills should be viewed as the individual’s “inner space,” where feelings and thoughts have to do with self-understanding, identityshaping, and understanding of other people. These skills are acquired and developed first and foremost in a secure environment, where the student is aware of his/her own worth and trusts others. This positive self-image gives the student the courage to become involved in situations that are not necessarily comfortable. The school must offer a secure environment, so students are able and willing to experiment with themselves and others. The acquisition of personal skills, whereby the student possesses an ability to reflect, react, tolerate and accept others, allows the student to develop empathy for others. The “social skills” in the model cover critical assessment, role flexibility, conflict resolution, responsibility, negotiation, communication, collaboration and solidarity (2). The absence of social skills is often seen in violent episodes, in which the student is unable to put himself in the other’s shoes and does not understand the consequences of his actions. The teaching cannot be planned so that it, e.g. “trains” critical assessment or “trains” students to take responsibility. The teacher Hans Jørgen Kristensen’s action skill model (general skill/education) Action skill in physical education (Rønholt) must, however, try whenever possible to facilitate situations that make it possible for the student to acquire these skills. “Body and physical skills” are defined in relation to each other and constitute important components in the physical contribution to the overall general educational intention. In the body skills, learning is assessed by motor skills. These are acquired through the child’s growth, through daily activities and through participation in sports. This is a visible skill based on motor and expressive ability. Through appropriate and repetitive challenges, body skills are acquired. This skill has a functional character and develops/changes in a school and life perspective. In order to stimulate the above-mentioned, many different kinds of qualifications are required of the physical education teacher. The physical education teacher must be able to observe, analyze and respond to children’s motor actions and be able to organize activities/actions that are well suited for developing such skills.

Model for skill building in physical education:


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Athletic skills should enable the student to be both a participant and a spectator. It is important to be able to involve dimensions other than physical skills (e.g. emotional, social and cognitive). The acquisition of athletic skills requires an understanding of athletic experience, insight and recognition that are not exclusively gained through movement. The acquisition of action skills must also lie in the individual student being given the opportunity to reflect on actions and to experience value in co-determination. Are schools successful in this task? In 2004 the Danish Evaluation Institute (EVA) evaluated physical education in Danish grade schools. This evaluation resulted in a long list of recommendations for improving the quality of future physical education. The following is a list of some of those recommendations.

Recommendations for physical education in schools:

To the Physical Education teacher • Improve your professional awareness • Try to base your teaching on theory • Make a connection between goals, progress and evaluation • Prioritize your annual teaching plan • Motivate your students by involving them in decision-making • Focus on the subject’s relevance in interdisciplinary contexts • Reinforce your work with teaching goals • Reinforce your work with teaching differentiation

To management

• Prioritise physical education as you do the school’s other subjects • Initiate discussion of the subject’s content with the professional group • Set aside time for physical education teachers to participate in the formal parent cooperation • Initiate the establishment of a subject-teacher team • Main subject teachers should teach in the subject • Prepare a long-term supplementary training plan The full report, including additional recommendations, is available for download at www.EVA.dk Establishment of a School Athletics Development Centre [Skoleidrættens Udviklingscenter] In 2006 the School Athletics Development Centre was established with a development department and a communication department. The development department carries out development work in relation to EVA’s recommendations, thereby producing best practice information that is communicated to schools throughout Denmark. At the conference, I will try to explain how we, in Denmark, try to implement the above-mentioned recommendations.

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