The UN is calling on global governments to reverse the decline in physical education (PE) investment worldwide.

UNESCO says the time children and adults all over the world spend engaging in physical activity is decreasing with dire consequences on their health, life expectancy, and ability to perform in the classroom, in society and at work.

Australian researcher Dr Dean Dudley is one of many authors on a new publication, Quality Physical Education, Guidelines for Policy Makers (PDF download), in which governments and educational planners are urged to reverse this trend.

“The UNESCO Quality Physical Education Guidelines are a call to arms for politicians and bureaucrats who want to resist the growing trend of shrinking school curricula to outcomes on standardised testing regimes,” Dr Dudley says.

The World Health Organization (WHO) describes the decline in PE as a pandemic, which contributes to the death of 3.2 million people every year.

The new publication on PE advocates quality physical education and training for PE teachers, and features a range of free infographics to highlight the benefits of investing in PE versus the cost of not.

The Guidelines seek to address seven areas of particular concern identified last year in UNESCO’s global review of the state of physical education, namely:

  1. Persistent gaps between PE policy and implementation
  2. Continuing deficiencies in curriculum time allocation
  3. Relevance and quality of the PE curriculum
  4. Quality of initial teacher training programmes
  5. Inadequacies in the quality and maintenance of facilities
  6. Continued barriers to equal provision and access for all
  7. Inadequate school-community coordination

For society to reap the benefit of quality physical education, the guidelines argue, planners must ensure that it is made available as readily to girls as it is to boys, to young people in school and to those who are not.