New Ontario Curriculum Emphasizes Fitness, Not Sport

Ontario Physical Education Curriculum

Ontario released their new Health and Physical Education curriculum documents Monday

The Ontario Government released its first update to Ontario’s Health and Physical Education curriculum since 1998 on Monday.

While the government came under scrutiny for the progressive health and sex education inclusions, other shifts in the curriculum also exist, including what appears to be a further shift away from formalized sport, toward fitness.

The new Health portion of the curriculum revamps an out of date document which made little to no mention of topics such as gender identity, self concept, and communications technology, and now encompasses an overall aim at understanding ones self, accepting others, and forming healthy relationships. As well, mental health and creating safe schools free of violence, in particular related to gender identity and sexual orientation are major themes.

The Physical Education portions of the document make it clear, that also teaching basic movement skills and techniques remain a part of the curriculum, that an emphasis should be put on fitness, lifelong health, and physical literacy, while de-emphasizing the use of traditional games and sport in the classroom.

“While participation in sports and organized activities is beneficial, children need to know that sports are not the only way to be active,” reads the new document. “Organized sports are not available in all communities, and some children prefer to be active in other ways. Parents can encourage their children to be active by providing opportunities for hiking, playing outdoors, cycling, walking, gardening, and doing household chores. Parents are also encouraged to give children opportunities to see and try new activities and to make use of community facilities such as parks, rinks, pools, and hiking and snow trails. Such opportunities help adolescents build confidence and experience and develop their appreciation of being active.”

While in the past, students may have been restricted to traditional games such as basketball, volleyball, and soccer, the new document emphasizes a broader range of opportunities to teach movement strategies and skills. In particular, one goal the new Ontario Physical Education curriculum states is as follows:

“To promote lifelong healthy, active living for all, it is important not to restrict students to game and sport activities.”

While some proponents of sport were not pleased with the wording of the document, many in Ontario’s health and physical activity communities are in support of the shift.

“This curriculum will enable us to support our students in acquiring the critical physical and health literacy skills they need to thrive within a supportive and inclusive classroom environment and school community, to lead healthy active lives and to promote healthy living within their communities,” says Joanne Walsh, past president, Ontario Association for the Support of Physical and Health Educators, in support of the curriculum.

“The curriculum focuses on skills and strategies that can be transferred from the context of the classroom to healthy, active living outside of the school, lessening the burden on our healthcare and social services systems and ultimately assisting Ontario’s children and youth in reaching their full potential while at the same time improving their health throughout their lives,” wrote Chris Markham, executive director and CEO of OPHEA regarding the new curriculum.

The new curriculum emphasizes regular physical activity and students developing overall healthy lifestyles that they can carry beyond the physical education classroom, while acknowledging that sport is not the only vehicle for delivering fitness and movement skills to youth.

To view the full 2015 Ontario Health and Physical Education curriculum, CLICK HERE.

  1. I think that if this had been available when I was in school, I would have seen fitness as a good thing. Instead, I was awful at all sports and hated the thought of gym class or being active…

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