School sports for nation-building


  • Nation
  • Sunday, 13 Dec 2009

Sports in school are not necessarily about winning. It can also be used as a social tool to produce balanced individuals.

Sports Day in schools was something the whole town would get involved in. It was such a big event with our parents also showing up to lend their support — these are the words of the Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin at an event recently.

Now, the situation is far from that.

I certainly agree with Tan Sri Muhyiddin’s statement. Looking back, I particularly enjoyed the Annual Sports Days. In my time, Sports Day was an event eagerly awaited by almost all in the school.

It was a colourful event which was made more vibrant with t-shirts of the different house colours and the huge nylon parachute-shaped tents. Everyone got free snack coupons and the thirst-quenching iced Milo — a luxury and treat only to be savoured once a year.

Today, Sports Day is still an annual event, but the passion and its charm do not have as much an impact as it used to.

While schools strive to produce well-rounded holistic individuals, academic excellence will always be regarded by many as the main agenda in education. This has, and unjustifiably so, pushed excellence in sports and games to a secondary importance.

The Education Minister said that sports should once again be given serious emphasis in schools to produce students who are well-rounded.

Schools provide a platform of co-curricular activities for people to progress; from having fun to being healthy to instilling endurance in competition. It provides a curriculum that builds a balanced individual as well as addressing a variety of issues from social integration, health, community regeneration and social inclusion.

Today, we have dedicated sports schools in Bukit Jalil and Bandar Penawar.

It is heartening to watch players who give their more senior club-level counterparts a run for their money.

The sports schools have been a success; a number of Olympians have been produced in particular individual events.

Certainly, there are plans to expand the establishment of such schools, and when this materialises, the sports schools can be more focused in targeting to develop particular sport respectively.

The sports schools were established to produce outstanding sportsmen and sportswomen.

They will only cater to the highly talented few. When we consider education for all, we must also look into providing sport opportunities for all as well.

Not all students are inclined to par­ticipate in competitive sports since not all are athletically-endowed.

Schools therefore should focus on participation rather than competition.

Intra and inter school sports is an example where opportunities for those not participating in recognised sport could contribute and those with talents could shine.

For such opportunities to flourish there must be emphasis in sports for all.

School can be the vehicle to promote fun and enjoyment that enable students to develop the necessary skills to participate in sports and physical activities.

However, inadequate resources and facilities can impact sports programme for schools.

As a result, students are less likely to participate in sports activities due to these barriers and the lack of fun or enjoyment.

Literature suggests that school sports programmes that are linked to a broader community engagement are more likely to encourage continuing participation into adulthood.

On 1 June 2009, the Ministry of Education set up a Sports Deve­lopment Committee for Schools.

Among its committee members are the Youth and Sports Ministry, National Sports Association, National Olympic Council and the National Sports Institute.

This collaborative effort is not new. Over the years the Ministry has always received support from these agencies.

However, the School Sports Deve­lopment Committee is set up to promote a comprehensive, flexible and coordinated sports programme across the entire school environment.

We realised that in order to make “sports for all” a success, cooperation from all quarters is an important factor.

Local authorities that manage sport venues and centres can play their part to allow students to fully utilise their facilities.

Sports organisations and state associations can operate in tandem with schools to be actively involved at school level.

Even committee members in local residential areas can play a part in organising teams and leagues, outside the school system, to provide means for continuous sport involvement.

The ministry believes that the involvement of other agencies including private sector and non-governmental bodies is crucial, specifically in identifying talent, preparing students in overcoming challenges and sharing the best or current practice with teachers.

These agencies are able to recognise the diversity of interests within a school community, the different needs and range of abilities for students.

Furthermore, involvement from these agencies may help to encourage the sharing of resources, builds the capacity of small sport and district sports clubs to include students and families in their activities.

In return, school and community partnerships are strengthened.

For the school to be the place to promote sports, leadership is important to facilitate cultural change in the school with regards to sports and providing opportunities for students to actively participate.

Parents need to be supportive in their children’s participation in sports.

The spirit of competitiveness in school should be on a broader scope, not only focusing on those with academic prowess but those who excel in other fields.

I have always been interested in sports and was active in sports activities in school. As a young teacher, I was a football couch and a qualified football referee.

Although the rules have evolved over the years, my involvement in football in school has allowed me to view football matches differently than the average supporter.

I always believe that an enjoyable experience in sports as a youth could lead to a lifetime participation in sports and to an active lifestyle as an adult.

Sports in school are not necessarily about producing world beaters. Sports in school too are not just about tournaments and competitions with the victors and the vanquished.

Sports for all is about “enculturation” and strengthening programmes that are inclusive yet diverse to cater for different non-competitive interests.

The benefits of sports must be utilised not just as a healthy physical pursuit but also as a social tool towards producing a balanced individual.

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