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Why It Matters

Sports science to exercise minds

From next year, a new Exercise and Sports Science subject will replace Physical Education (PE) at the O levels. Students at selected schools, entering Secondary 3 next year, can opt for the subject.

The new subject will include biomechanics - not in the current O-level PE syllabus - which will offer deeper insight into how the body works during exercise.

This perhaps reflects a larger shift towards sporting excellence, to raise the quality of sports expertise even at the school level. Students who are avid athletes can pick up relevant knowledge and skills that will benefit them in the long run.

Many students are surprised when they find out that, at some schools, PE can be offered as a subject at the O levels, and that their PE grade can be used to apply for entry to post-secondary institutions.

Contrary to what some think, acing the current O-level PE subject is not easy. It involves pushing one's mental faculties and physical limits.

Some 300 students have taken it each year, for the past few years. This translates to a mere 1 per cent of the entire O-level cohort last year, when over 30,000 students sat the national examination. The current PE subject is offered at only 18 schools, such as Catholic High School and North Vista Secondary.

To do well, students have to consistently push themselves. As one educator puts it, sports skills take time to grasp.

Selection is stringent. At one school, students keen to pursue the subject undergo a trial at the end of Secondary 2. Their co-curricular activity (CCA) and National Physical Fitness Award test records, as well as feedback from PE teachers, are also considered.

The new subject, which looks at various aspects of sports science, including sports psychology, may well help to build a sizeable pool of individuals with expertise in sports. It also gives young people a glimpse into a career in the sports industry.

But while it is useful for student athletes to understand how their body works and boost their performance, care must be taken not to stifle the joy of sports in the pursuit of top marks.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2017, with the headline 'Sports science to exercise minds'. Print Edition | Subscribe