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Education reform: 225 minutes of physical education

Apr 25,2015 - Last updated at Apr 25,2015

A recent report issued by Education for All (EFA), identified school-related gender-based violence as one of the main challenges impacting millions of children worldwide, especially girls.

The paper explored the extent, causes and repercussions of violence and highlights the need for gender disaggregated evidence to better inform policy. 

The paper defined violence as “threats of sexual, physical or psychological violence occurring in and around schools, perpetrated as a result of social norms and gender stereotypes, and enforced by unequal power dynamics”. 

I have not come across any verified reports on the extent of violence in our schools. Research and studies on school bullying in the Arab world are rare.

The only figures found were in a study conducted by Fleming and Jacobsen in 2009, which examined the prevalence of peer victimisation in middle-school students in 19 Arab low- and middle-income countries. 

The study reported an average prevalence rate of 34.2 per cent for the 19 countries. Jordan was at the high end, with a prevalence rate of 44.2 per cent.

Unlike the conclusion of the EFA report, it is widely known that violence in boys’ schools in Jordan is higher. This might justify as well the lower performance of boys and their failure in the Tawjihi exams, compared to girls. 

We need to differentiate between conflict and violence.

In a tense educational environment, conflict will appear, and often, among teenage students.

Skills to defuse conflict or to work it out, whether by teachers or among the students themselves, are lacking.

Ideally, such conflicts should not lead to violence. Conflict should be dealt with, stressors should be identified and addressed before developing into violence. We all should work to find the solution. 

When I say we, I mean home, first, teachers and the administration.

A high percentage of violent students reflects what they see at home, relatives and neighbours and try to imitate.

Educators and social workers should know the elements and ingredients that might lead to violence and it will be easier for them to tackle the phenomenon.

Teachers play a very important role in this matter. They need to learn how to respect teenage students, listen to their ideas and implement them if they are good.

They should learn never to humiliate a teenage student, but respect him/her. We should not plant fear in our students, we should plant respect that will become mutual.

Policy makers and school administrations should look seriously into this matter.

A proposed solution is the increase the extra-curricular activities. This will allow students to spend a good amount of energy and to control their emotions.

It will allow them to be creative, want to lead such activities and be deeply involved in the process.

These activities should be in addition to the regular physical education taught at schools.

Research in developed countries concluded that curricula must include a minimum of 150 minutes of physical education per week (30 minutes per day) for children in elementary schools and 225 minutes per week (45 minutes per day) for students in middle and high schools. This will result in a healthier future for our students, hopefully less violent.

The writer is an education adviser with more than 30 years of experience in education planning, curriculum development and leading international schools. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.

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