A programme recently initiated for selected schools aims to encourage children to take up a physical activity that is very much within their ability.
THE BRITISH government intends to deliver its promise of a sports legacy programme to inspire youth to participate in sports, after winning the bid to host the London 2012 Olympic Games this year.
“International Inspiration (II) is a programme aimed at giving the world’s youth a holistic and an inclusive sports education experience,” said II trainer and SMK Keningau, Sabah, physical education (PE) teacher Bilong Ngerong.
The programme is being carried out by the British Council in partnership with the Education Ministry, the Malaysian Olympic Council, the Malaysian Paralympic Council and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef).
The programme’s main agenda is inclusivity and has a special focus on getting students with disabilities involved in sports said Ngerong.
“It ensures every student gets the most out of PE and sports despite their different health backgrounds or disabilities.
“The programme is revolutionary because it takes into consideration the difficulties of putting together activities that fit every student.
“Instead of putting the burden of planning out PE activities solely on the shoulders of teachers, it uses a set of illustrated action cards, to guide teachers through suggested activities,” he said.
Even though action cards are not new educational tools, the way in which the cards provide guidance and illustrate activities definitely depart from convention said Ngerong.
“The images on the cards not only show how to carry out activities for normal students, it also describes how to change elements of the activity to accommodate disabled or weaker students.
“This way teachers are able to tune PE classes to be ‘robust’ or ‘soft’ depending on the capabilities of students in a particular classroom,” he said.
He added that the cards and the methods they suggest are particularly helpful to non-optionist PE teachers who have little or no PE background.
Ngerong notes that the biggest challenge as a PE teacher is not producing the next national athlete but to get every student interested in sports.
“The goal of PE in school is to get students to enjoy sports and gain as much as possible from participating in them so they can lead a healthy life.
“But if students are reluctant to take part in sports due to lack of confidence or inability to keep up with tough activities, then we can’t meet this goal,” he said.
He added that developing a liking for physical activity among youth and children is an important step in developing national athletes.
“If you don’t get students passionate about sports first, how do you expect to find new athletes?” he said.
Under the programme, 10 schools in Malaysia — five from Perak and five from Sabah — will be partnered with schools in Manchester, the United Kingdom to formulate lessons and co-operate on case studies said British Council project manager Husna Hamimi Hashim.
“Twenty Malaysian teachers were selected to become trainers for the programme and went on to train over 1,000 pupils and 600 teachers in the country to become sports leaders.
“Three out of the 20 trainers went on to become international trainers. Among them is Ngerong who has been to Indonesia and Pakistan to train teachers there,” she said.
Husna added that the progamme’s initiative to get all students involved in sports was in line with the goverment’s “One Student, One Sport” policy.
Another international trainer who also went to Indonesia with Ngerong to train trainers is SJK(C) Shing Chung Perak PE teacher Teing Tai Chee.
Teing explained that the activities imprinted on the cards used in the programme were not different from what the local school syllabus contained, but it was a more efficient means of conducting PE classes.
“The cards point teachers in the right direction, therefore they spend less time talking to students trying to explain an activity to them.
“Both teacher and student simply refer to the cards and afterwards, based on the suggestions in the card, or their own innovation, they can work out a suitable activity,” he said.
He added that whatever activity or sport that the class decides to carry out is not limited to the card’s descriptions and suggestions.
“The cards are there as ‘tools’ to help in PE class, apart from that, it is in the hands of both student and teacher.
“But teachers must understand that the concept behind II is not to say ‘no’ to students when they suggest something ... it is learning to accommodate their desires and allowing them to enjoy themselves.
“The idea is to match activities to the capabilities of students.
“For example, if a student is weaker and finds it hard to kick a ball, then use a lighter ball. If a student doesn’t have the stamina to run very far, then play in a smaller field or court,” said Teing.
Teing said changing the game’s equipment and rules to fit the students’ capabilities is an amazing way to get everyone involved in PE.
“Some might think you need a big budget for this, but that’s not true. If the balls are heavy, there is no need to buy lighter balls, in my school we made them out of crumpled paper and cellophane tape.
“The programme encourages both the student and teacher to be innovative and to come up with their own ideas of how to make a game fun for all,” he said.
He added that in any game, it still boils down to the basics — harnessing balance, coordination and agility.
“The activities mentioned in the cards even offers tips on how to accommodate critically disabled children developing the basics.
“These are well thought out activities. Even when carried out in a minimal way, they still build the key attributes of a sportsman,” he explained.
The Tops cards have been incorporated into the new primary school curriculum (KSSR) as supporting material, and is slated to be expanded to the secondary school curriculum next year said Husna.
“Between the incorporation of the cards and the Youth Sports Leadership (YSL) camps carried out by trainers, a new sports paradigm can be brought about, to the benefit of both teachers and students,” she added.
Husna cited that selected secondary school students that go through YSL camps must come up with a sports festival involving their younger cohorts from primary school, including those with disabilities after the camp.
“They invite surrounding schools to the festival and come up with games like futsal and volleyball for the visually impaired, where non-visually impaired pupils put on blindfolds to level the playing field and a bell is attached to the ball so they can triangulate on it,” she said.
Through events like the festival, they learn how sports can be played together by everyone including the disabled she added.
At the close of the round table interview, the question of the importance of sports in the education system was raised and how Malaysians tend to sideline sports in favour of obssessing over exam results.
“As long as the education system is based around examinations with parents fussing over the number of A’s their children obtain ... we will not head anywhere. Progress will only come when all parties concerned see the bigger picture, the measure of success is a subjective exercise,” said Ngerong adding that it was a different matter to be discussed on a different platform.