PE teachers gear up for next year's new syllabus

Yio Chu Kang Primary pupils play handball during a PE lesson. The revamped PE curriculum will be introduced at the lower primary and secondary levels from next year. -- ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM
Yio Chu Kang Primary pupils play handball during a PE lesson. The revamped PE curriculum will be introduced at the lower primary and secondary levels from next year. -- ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

They will need to train all students in matchplay skills

To get ready for next year's revamped syllabus, around 600 Physical Education (PE) teachers became students themselves in a two-day workshop.

Called the Enhancing My School's PE Curriculum workshop, these teachers were taught how to plan their lessons to meet the challenges of the new syllabus, which makes it compulsory for all secondary school students to take part in at least three friendly matches with schoolmates.

That means students need to be able to pick up the fundamentals of a chosen sport within a 10-week school term, said Victoria Junior College PE head Tan Yew Hwee, who took part in the workshop in August.

"At the end of the 10 weeks, I have to make sure they can play, for example, a three-on-three basketball game. We can't teach everything, so we just teach the necessary skills to play a small basketball game," he told The Straits Times.

To help PE teachers understand what students need to learn, the workshop went beyond lectures.

As one group of participants played games, such as basketball, another group observed the different skills that were used during the exercise - noting the critical ones which students will need to be taught.

To make sure that these skills are picked up progressively, PE lessons will require more structured learning outcomes.

"For example, in a ball game, what do you do when you have the ball? How do you get away from the defender, and how do you receive the ball?" said Mr Teng Tse Sheng, programme manager at the Physical Education and Sports Teacher Academy (Pesta), which conducts the workshops.

Several schools such as Yuying Secondary are taking this one step further by ensuring they have teachers who focus solely on PE lessons. Typically, PE teachers spend a third of their time on other subjects.

"For a school to teach its students how to play a game in a term, which has about 16 hours of PE lessons, I thought it called for some structural change," said Yuying's PE department head Lawrence Lim.

Specialised PE teachers, he explained, will be able to focus better on lesson planning to make sure the objectives of the new syllabus are being met.

Announced in July by Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, the new curriculum will be introduced at the lower primary and secondary levels from next year. It will be implemented at all levels, including junior colleges, by 2016.

The current syllabus, which was set up in 2006, does not make it compulsory for secondary students to participate in recreational competitions.

The planning workshop, compulsory for all senior PE teachers and PE department heads, trained its final batch in October. But Pesta has other workshops in the pipeline, including one which helps PE teachers evaluate their own lessons. Another workshop plans to familiarise teachers with the new PE grading system which will start from 2016.

Instead of A to C scores, report cards will provide a qualitative description of how a student does on six fronts, such as participation levels, and the values they show during PE time.

Pesta master teacher Hanif Abdul Rahman believes the new syllabus and grading system "have a lot of promise. They give a more holistic picture of a student's development in PE lessons".

leepearl@sph.com.sg