School of Education

School of Education

The Fiji Secondary School Sport and Physical Education Status Quo and its Influence on Tertiary Curriculum Development

Students at a Suva Primary School engaged in Physical Education

Co-Authored by: Mr. Jeremy Dorovolomo, Assistant Lecturer in Sport, Health and Physical Education, School of Education, University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji Islands. & Dr. John Hammond, Senior Lecturer in Sport, Health and Physical Education, School of Education, Southern Cross University, Lismore, Australia.


This study examined if the current Fiji secondary school syllabus and school sport provides adequate directive for quality physical education and school sport programs, the level of confidence in its delivery, and issues that may emerge to influence University curriculum development. Twenty-two (22) physical educators in twenty-one (21) secondary schools filled a questionnaire, with three of them interviewed; and field notes were recorded as researchers went to the schools. Responses and field notes were coded for curriculum delivery, external connectivity, and influence on curriculum development. Miles and Huberman’s (1987) Qualitative Data Analysis was used to process data. Analysis showed that all sampled secondary schools profess to have physical education, intramural, and inter-school sports, but actual delivery varied; PE teachers yearn for connectivity particularly external connectivity; and strongly support the development of a degree major in the University of the South Pacific.


A British colony for nearly a century, Fiji became independent in 1970. Fiji is a country in the South Pacific Ocean, about 2, 100 km north of New Zealand. An Archipelago of more than 800 islands, Viti Levu is the largest, where almost 80% of the population live, and where Suva, the capital city is located. Vanua Levu is the other major island, where Labasa is the main town. The nation’s population is about 800, 000 in 2002, with Fijians making up 53 per cent of the overall population, Indians 40 percent, with the balance made up of Rotumans, Chinese, Part-Europeans, Europeans, and other Pacific Islanders (Fijimagic, 2006).


Since Methodist missionaries, as part of Evangelising, started formal education in Fiji in 1835 (Tavola, 1991,p. 8), Fiji education has developed over 160 years to a well- developed network of secondary schools, despite socio-economic, locality, systems inequality, and political turbulence. In 1970 the number of secondary students was only 13% of the number of primary children, but by 1999 it had risen to 47%. This shows increasing access to secondary education. In 2000 there were about 142 621 primary and 68, 129 secondary students (Tavola, 2000). By developing nations’ standards, Fiji has a very high percentage of trained teachers. For example, in 1986, 95.3 per cent of secondary teachers and 99 per cent of primary teachers were trained teachers (Tavola, 1991, p. 138).


Bacchus (2000) thus stated that a logical step for Fiji is to then improve the quality of education offered in educational institutions throughout the country. The quest for increasing quality and relevance. Physical education (PE) and school sport must be part of this strive. Bacchus, importantly, also stressed how paramount it is for teachers to include often marginalised subjects such as physical education in their teaching, for holistic student experiences. It is often the practice in Fiji that if exams are near, physical education classes are cancelled for study time; viewed as peripheral; valued little; and often not taught at all. Secondary schools are allocated 80 minutes per week for physical education but it is not formally assessed. Secondary schools have PEMAC (Physical education, music, art and craft) teachers. In 1999, the Fiji College of Advanced Education (FCAE) started a one-year specialist course on Physical education/Music or Physical education/Art for certified teachers. After nineteen students graduated in the first year, there were many others graduating (Williams and Taylor, 2000). Since then, FCAE now has a two-year Diploma in PEMAC for secondary teachers. The Fiji Institute of Technology (FIT) has a two year diploma and a one year certificate in sport and physical education (Mitchell, Miller and Elder, 2005).


The University of the South Pacific (USP) currently offers three physical education units, through the School of Education, taken by students as electives to add credit to their various programs, but does not lead to a sport and physical education award. This has been the case for more than a decade. However, things are changing at the USP, with the Faculty of Arts and Law submitting proposal for degree majors in sport and physical education, under the School of Social Sciences. It is part of the Faculty’s triennium budget submission 2007 – 2009 (Faculty of Arts and Law, 2006). Moreover, the Faculty of Science and Technology is planning to offer sport science from 2007 as well (Talanoa and Nandni, 2006).


For a physical education degree major, it is imperative that ‘informed knowledge’ of  the  USP members’ status quo is absolutely vital. Information collected will be helpful in influencing a relevant sport and physical education degree curriculum in the USP. We need to know our served environment to serve it well. This research is based on Siedentop and Locke’s (1997) notion that the success and quality of physical education  in K-12 schools depends on Physical Education Teacher Education (PETE)  and on how each plays a part in the success or failure of the other. Put simply, good PETE must produce good school programs. PETE has failed to exert a positive influence on school programs because there has been little or no real effort to do so. Siedentop and Locke (1997, p. 26) said “What we have is a systemic failure – one that involves the relationship of physical education programs in public schools with teacher preparation in higher education”. Realising this systemic failure is imperative because many PETE institutions do not impute the problem as systemic, thus operating programs far removed from the context. It is the aim of this paper to start gauging what happens in Pacific schools, starting with Fiji, to assist in the conceptualisation of a degree program in the USP.


Curriculum development is often done without even knowing the uniqueness and peculiarities of the region. Developing a curriculum without locating the needs of the population it serves and not having heard the voice of teachers who will implement the physical education curriculum at schools could be inappropriate and negative for learners, the eventual destination of any curriculum process. Ellis (1999, pp.23-24), who researched in the West Indies, where a regional university also exists, stressed that curriculum development ‘without the information obtained through research could lead to deficiencies in the system that could be detrimental to learners, as well as to the nation’. It is for the learners that this study is absolutely important. As a regional university it needs to know what happens out there in member countries to better meet their needs. Developing a university curriculum without initial exploration runs a high risk of putting bandage on the right arm when the left is the injured limb. It has to be responsive to Island needs, and that it should be a pacific-featured curriculum.


This paper also believes strongly Stanley (1991, p. 5), that without good educational research to guide curriculum development ‘superstition prevail’. Curriculum development at PETE institutions should not be based on superstition but from disciplined inquiry. Such disciplined inquiry will exert a decisive influence on the quality, correctness, and relevance of any planned curriculum. Furthermore, Rokicka (1999, p.7) correctly stressed that in developing countries, ‘considering the scarcity of resources and the acuteness of the educational problems, the need for informed decision-making is an even more urgent matter’. It has to be effort going the correct direction in meeting specific needs, from informed constructs. It is the aim that regional physical education curricula are closely related to the USP program, and thus positively impinge on curriculum delivery by teachers. Any curriculum document may look spectacular on paper, but if teachers are irrelevantly prepared, it will simply be just another archival documentation ready to collect tropical dust.


Thus, this study wanted to hear “teachers’ voice” on the Fiji physical education prescription, and its implementation, and to uncover findings that could help influence sport and physical education curriculum development at USP.


 Twenty-two (22) physical educators from twenty-one (21) secondary schools filled a questionnaire. Two lecturing staff of the School of Education, USP, gave feedback on the questionnaire prior to implementation. Eleven (11) of the physical educators were from Suva, the capital city of the Fiji Islands, on the island of Viti Levu; and eleven (11) from Labasa, the main town of the island of Vanua Levu. Interviews were conducted on three physical educators during the visits and field notes were kept not only of sampled schools of Suva and Labasa, but of six (6) secondary schools of Lautoka City as well. These field notes of people, places, events, activities, conversations, observations, and reflections, supplemented information from questionnaires, interviews, and official documents.


Official permission and access was received from all Principals of participating secondary schools. Then, consent was taken from the physical educators of these schools, prior to giving them the questionnaire and permission for the interviews. During school visits, the Principal was always the first person consulted before meeting the physical educator. The University of the South Pacific (USP) provided funding for the project.




Miles and Huberman’s (1987) Qualitative Data Analysis was used to process data. This involved (a)  data reduction; the focusing, sorting, discarding, and organizing of ‘raw’ data to enable drawing conclusions. Emanating from research questions, priori codes were used. Written and transcribed data were read thoroughly and then coded against related meaningful segments. Coded text chunks were then cut manually and put together in files where further sorting, organisation, and interpretations occurred. (b) data display; is ‘an organized assembly of information that permits conclusion drawing and action taking’ (p. 21). A matrix is used (see table 1). (c) Conclusion drawing/verification; was done throughout the process by ‘clustering’ issues, settings, and actors in order to understand the phenomenon studied.

Table1. Matrix of summarized Findings and Sources of Data. 


 Source of data     


 Major Findings                                                                                       I       F       Q       D


Category 1. Curriculum Delivery


1.      Most combine the Fiji physical education prescription and their

own created program.                                                                                          x


2.      All schools except one profess to take physical education (PE) but actual

      delivery  varies.                                                                                 x       x       x


3.      All the secondary schools take one or two periods per week.                             x


4.   PE teachers are most confident to teach Volleyball, Athletics,

      Body systems, Fitness education, Sport injuries and drugs in

      sport.                                                                                                           x       x


5.      PE teachers are least confident to teach Cricket, Outdoor ,

Education Sport sociology, Basketball, and Hockey.                                x        x       


6.      All schools have intramural sport except one, but only

       three weekly.                                                                                                      x


7. Suva has more sport options than Labasa.                                                  x         x  


8. All except one school does not participate in inter-schools.                                 x


9.  Most schools have space for physical education and sport, even

      though improvement  can occur.                                                                 x       x  


10.  Lack of equipment is a challenge.                                                     x        x       x 


11.  There exists positive and negative attitudes towards sport and PE.  x       x        x


12.  ‘Minor sports’ should be encouraged as do ‘major sports’                         x                x


13.  Every sampled school has a copy of the Fiji Secondary PE

prescription except one .                                                                                         x


Category 2. External Connectivity Issues


14.  National sporting federations are more active in Suva than

      Labasa.                                                                                               x      x        x


15.  There is call for ongoing in-service, short courses from the

      Ministry of Education and Sporting Federations particularly

      from outside Suva.                                                                            x       x  


16.  Many schools see parental support as very positive                                           x


17.  Certain schools have sound nexus with their local government

to improve facilities.                                                                                 x      


Category 3. Influence on University Curriculum Development


18. Strong support for a degree major in Sport and PE at the USP.     x       x


19.  There is promotional stagnation of PE teachers because they

do not have a degree.                                                                       x      x


20. Importance of Informed Curriculum Development                         x       x


21. The Fiji Secondary PE prescription has a Health and Physical

 Activity, Sport Education, Sport Science, Outdoor Education, 

and Sport Humanities orientation.                                                                             x                                 


22.  Most PE teachers have a Diploma from the Fiji College of Advanced

    Education (FCAE) and the Fiji Institute of Education (FIT).              x                x




Note: I = Interview   F = Field notes   Q = Questionnaire    D = Document


This table shows methods used in data collection and very brief summaries of emergent issues discussions will revolve around




The trustworthiness of the work was ensured by the following ways. The first was via peer review of our questionnaire. Two members of the faculty were given a copy of the questionnaire, in which one of them is an expert on assessment and evaluation. Secondly, the findings stem from multiple data collection methods, as the table above showed as well.



Curriculum Delivery

All sampled schools, except one, had either one or two PE periods per week on the school timetable, usually of 40 minutes duration per period, but actual delivery varies. Even though 80 minutes is allocated for secondary school PE, schools delivered variedly from none to full allocation. PE should be taken at least three times a week to better meet minimum health-related requirements for physical activity (Ronda, Assema and Brug, 2001). There is recommendation, however, that students should be involved in physical education each day of the week 30 minutes per day (Barroso, McCullum-Gomez, Hoelscher, Kelder, and Murray, 2005). Whatever the recommended dosage is, Beets and Pitetti (2005), after studying the health-related fitness variables of 187 high school students, concluded that PE does not provide students with enough activity that promotes physical fitness. Ishee (2003) also reinforced this by asserting that most high schools in America are still far from providing their students with adequate amount of physical education and activity opportunities. Physical education, nevertheless, is imperative to a physically active child – the prerequisite, but it is often overlooked and too easily dismissed (Forsberg, 2002). Thus, there has to be barriers militating against the implementation of PE in schools. In Ireland, MacPhail and Halbert (2005), construed that a common constraint affecting the implementation of the PE syllabus is an already overcrowded curriculum, and that a significant number of the schools do not deliver the Department of Education and Science’s recommendation of two hours per week of PE per student. Obviously, with an already overcrowded curriculum, finding space for daily physical education is a challenge. Barroso et al (2005) uncovered low priority given to PE in comparison to other subjects and lack of funding impeded implementation of quality PE programs in the United States.


In our study, in order of felt barriers, PE teachers had lack of equipment, lack of facilities, improper attire, poor attitude towards PE by the school and as a result less support, and big class sizes, as the top five barriers. We would disagree with the lack of facilities because in all the schools we went to, they had very good space and well kept fields except for two schools. These two schools, however, have very good space and facility nearby. On the issues pertaining to equipment and class size, minimal equipment for a big class size can certainly negatively affect delivery of lessons. Two soccer balls for thirty-five students could mean more ‘wait time’ than ‘practice time’, reducing movement, practice, and exercise in the PE lesson. PE here does not mean sport, recess, play, or carnival, but properly taught and supervised PE lessons. A very confident PE teacher said:


“…most schools regard PE as just a sports time its just an avenue where you get students out and they just play sports and for some teachers that is just wasting time. Even we have teachers like that in the system. This concept of physical education is you just go out kick the ball and play” (LB7)


This is worth stressing because according to Williams and Taylor (2000) PE in Fiji is often treated as play, where a netball could be thrown out and students play as they wish. This is a scenario that needs changing. Students need to be properly instructed, given appropriate feedback and reinforcement. On the other hand, a closer delve could tell us that the impediments of class size and lack of equipment echoed previously could play a part in simply making students play.


Furthermore, the study found that if it is the Fiji third school term, physical education and sport are normally halted altogether because that is when high stakes exams are sat. A teacher said:


 “… for the third term physical education and sport were not allowed at all. Students were not even given the opportunity for free play in the afternoons, because they need to study for nationwide exams” (FL11).


 This means a whole school term without formal PE and school sport. In America, between 1991 – 1995, daily participation in physical education in American high school students has dropped 42 per cent  (Diabetes Advocate, 2005), but did not change during 1995-2003 (Lowry, Brener, Lee, and Epping, 2005). In Canada, schools are failing to deliver the level of physical education children need when it should be compulsory (CAPHERD, 2000). These are disheartening. Early experiences to a variety of physical activities do assist lifelong adherence to regular physical activities.  Inactive youths have a high chance of being inactive adults. In Fiji regular physical activity should be high on the health promotions list. Some of the statistics in Fiji and the Pacific Islands on lifestyle diseases are staggering. In Fiji, 80% of deaths are attributable to lifestyle diseases, 70% of which are due to heart disease, the number one killer (Naivalu, 2004). Rates of diabetes in many Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) are nine to ten times higher than in western countries. Stroke and hypertensive disease are among the five leading causes of death in nine out of fourteen PICTs (Coyne, 2000). Physical inactivity is one of the risk factors besides poor diet, tobacco use and obesity. People have become more sedentary. Physical education can play a role in promoting the physically active person (Moon, 2005). This can be encouraged and more established if the government formally accords PE formal assessment in high school and integrated more fully into school policies and evaluations (Barroso et al, 2005). If not Fiji students will be missing on physical education and physical activity opportunities particularly in third terms, and in schools where PE is not implemented at all, students are denied beneficial experiences.


 Undoubtedly, there are positively implemented programs and good practices in physical education and sport in Fiji secondary schools. Some diligently take physical education, supervise recess physical activity, organise intramural and inter-schools sport. These schools take pride in their programs and publicly displayed trophies, awards, and photos, visible as soon as you enter the reception area. On the other hand, there is cause for disquiet about the status of physical education in various Fiji secondary schools. Students are simply tucked into classrooms, indoors without physical education.


“… staff and students moving for another location. Then, after six minutes, they are all indoors again. It does not look like someone is changing for PE. All tucked and silence again” (FNS11)


As far as we are concerned, keeping students indoors, in the four corners of the classroom, for the whole year is not acceptable! Such relegated treatment of PE and school sport is not only a Fiji issue. An audit by the International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education (1999) revealed that 92% of the 126 sampled countries are legally required to include physical education but few countries actually carry out this statutory requirement, and that globally 30% of PE is dropped to make way for other subjects. Furthermore, Hardman (2004) stressed that school physical education worldwide appears to be under threat, due to decreasing time allocation, inadequate financing, a lowering subject status, and being ever more undervalued and marginalised by authorities. Physical Education is often seen as less important than academic subjects, and particularly if it is not examinable. When PE is not an examination subject it carries a stigma of inferiority, as it does not match the perceived academic significance of other examination subjects (Wright, McNeil and Schempp, 2005). Thus, Bradshaw (2006) argued that the profession should vigorously lobby to establish PE as a core subject to gain positive field recognition and public perception. In Fiji, a realistic pathway can be made for high school students to have PE as a formally assessed subject.


Every sampled secondary school has the Fiji secondary PE prescriptions, and PE teachers are using them with a combination of their own created programs. This is important because the syllabus should only be a guide and PE teachers have to ensure it works in their various situations. The PE program needs to be well planned and implemented because when PE teachers do not plan and prepare a thoughtful, sequential, and developmentally appropriate program that reflects the needs of students, they simply reinforce the fallacy that PE is less important than other curriculum areas (Stirling and Belk, 2002). Through thoughtful planning about what works in the various Fiji contexts,  PE teachers can help elevate the status of PE. In a study in Victoria, Australia, O’meara (2005) also found that the state may require schools to adopt a particular curriculum, but this does not ensure that practitioners in the school will implement the curriculum in line with the intentions of its authors.


In terms of the PE secondary curriculum contents, participating Fiji PE teachers are most confident to teach volleyball, athletics, body systems, fitness education, sport injuries and drugs in sport; but are least confident to teach cricket, outdoor education, sport sociology, basketball, and hockey. However, the confidence rate for three popular Fiji sports were average. The finding was that if the PE teacher is Indo-Fijian or female their confidence rating for teaching rugby is low. On the other hand, if the PE teacher is Fijian or female their confidence rating in teaching soccer is low. These reflect the country’s racial following of the two sports. Netball has a gendered low male confidence rating. Thus, even though rugby, soccer, and netball are very popular Fiji sport, and popularly played in secondary school intramural and inter-school meets, the confidence rating in teaching them were only average. Volleyball, however, was in fact the sport PE teachers were most confident in teaching. It is very unrealistic to expect PE teachers to be very confident in teaching everything that the curriculum says, but it is important to see the strengths and weaknesses of teachers, because that also signifies the strengths and weaknesses in curriculum delivery. This is so because it is the teachers who deliver curriculum contents to students, the eventual destination of any curriculum materials.


All sampled secondary schools have intramural sport except for one, but only three schools have it weekly. Most have intramural sport once a term. Rugby, soccer, netball, and volleyball are popular both in Suva and Labasa, but basketball and athletics are common intramural sports only in Suva. Suva also has more sport options for intramural which included badminton, softball, hockey, and swimming. An intramural program should be aimed at encouraging all students to participate in active lifestyle (Ross, 1997), under fun, inclusive, and safe environments.


 All schools participate in inter-school competitions except for one school. These inter-school competitions occur mostly once during each term. In Labasa, rugby, soccer and athletics are popularly in inter-school meets whereas in Suva there is addition of hockey, volleyball, badminton, and basketball. Schools usually would arrange their own competition, attend organised carnivals, or compete in sport-federation-run competitions. Inter-school sport, with its elitist origins, has only the gifted to participate. Students benefit from extracurricular activities such as intramural and inter-school sport. Extracurricular activities are any sport, exercise or physical activity organised by the school and which took place outside of lesson time (Daley and Leahey, 2003). Students benefit from regular exercise and fun, experience organised sport, get involved in activities that they may pursue for a lifetime (Warhol 2005), have significantly higher self-perception, and exert a positive impact on psychological health (Daley and Leahey, 2003). However, the rate of sport injuries in inter-schools have grown, pose negative psychological effect on students ‘cut’ from the team, a high attrition rate in sport particularly between the ages thirteen and eighteen, inappropriate coach and parental expectations, and there are liability issues (McEwin and Dickinson, 1996). It is therefore vital that the ‘no pain, no gain’ axiom is not imposed on young adolescents, that the ‘win-at-all-cost’ attitude should not prevail, parental and coach expectations should be realistic, and contest conditions should be safe and developmentally appropriate.


In Fiji secondary schools, the curriculum is typically dominated by team sports such as rugby, soccer, netball and volleyball. An issue emerging from the study is that ‘minor’ sport should be encouraged as much as the ‘major’ ones. The Fiji syllabus does not consciously infuse into the secondary curriculum ‘minor’ sport such as badminton, tennis, or table tennis. These should be deliberately encouraged including lifestyle physical activities such as walking, cycling, canoeing and dance. Treanor and Housner (1999) stated that there is nothing inherently wrong with team sports, but when they are the only alternative and offered in the same way year after year, with little progression or relationship between courses, the curriculum becomes stale and students lose interest. However, the range of areas the Fiji prescription, as is commonly known, is good. It has a health and physical activity, sport education, sport science, outdoor education, and sport humanities orientation. Exposes students to a variety of fields. It will be the responsibility of USP PETE to respond to these curriculum models.


Fiji should be ready to make physical education as an examinable subject in high school. It has at least PETE than other member countries of USP. It can be a model to other member countries in the Pacific Islands. If it is examinable, it will contribute to elevating its ranking in the school curricula and serve a decisive role in benefiting Fiji children.

External Connectivity Issues

 External connectivity is vital to the survival of physical education and school sport. Most of the sampled secondary schools see parental support as very positive. Parents allow their children to participate, pay sport fees, come to watch and encourage, and help fundraise for sport equipment and facilities. Only few schools said parental support was low. It is crucial in the PE profession to make conscious connections. Any program may live or die based on public opinion, therefore high-quality public relations are pertinent in maintaining public support. Thus it is paramount that physical educators engage in relentless and purposeful promotion and nexus locally and outside of their schools. Establish a reputation for excellence, customize for the community you work in, paint a professional public image, keep parents informed and connected, collaborate with other disciplines, and engage the community (Baker, 2001). The PE curriculum should not narrowly assume that the school is the only site of meaningful learning (MacDonald, 2004).


Certain Fiji secondary schools have sound nexus with their local governments and communities to improve facilities. Most schools also have good relationship with several national sporting federations. However, it was evident that many national sporting federations are active in Suva than other urban areas such as Labasa. An inter-agency task force convened by the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in 2002, recommended fostering partnerships between those who have interest in the progress of sport and physical education, from the UN system to the volunteers (Kluka, 2004). It is critical that bridges are built to promote quality physical education to those outside and inside education (Forsberg, 2002). Furthermore, Fraser-Thomas (2002) reinforced that for smooth implementation of any PE curriculum to occur, teachers need support from within the school, the school board and provincial governments.


Schools requested on-going in-service, short courses on physical education and sport from the Fiji Ministry of Education and sporting federations. In British Columbia, Canada, Luke (2000) found that a lack of curriculum advisors, limited in-service programmes and varying commitment from the school and teachers have made the PE curriculum implemented at varying levels. MacPhail and Halbert (2005) stressed Physical Education Teacher Education (PETE) institutions as the most obvious institutions to provide leadership in the continuing professional development of PE teachers. The USP should be doing more in creating that connectivity to PE practitioners. Wider collaboration, connectivity and integration is important to meet the needs of  postmodern learners, whether they be in schools or our PETE institution (MacDonald, Hunter, Carlson, and Penney, 2002). It is for the learners that connectivity is pertinent to ensure it has visible effect on, what Siedentop and Locke (1997) called, the ‘bottom line’; the improvement of physical education for children and youth.


Influence on University Curriculum Development

There is strong support from participating Fiji PE teachers for a degree major in sport and physical education at the USP. There is promotional stagnation for PE teachers because they do not have a degree. Most Fiji PE teachers graduated with a diploma in physical education from Fiji College of Advanced Education (FCAE) and the Fiji Institute of Education (FIT). As a result PE teachers can not be a deputy or be a school principal. This is what an older PE teacher has to say. He had been ….


“…in the system for thirty years but can not make any progress with promotions because there is no outlets to do a degree in physical education” (FL8)


A degree in physical education can be received only if you study outside of the pacific islands. As a result, many PE teachers did degrees on other subjects to be able to make it into higher administrative positions and other forms of promotions.


  On the 5 November 2004, the United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, formally launched 2005 as the International Year of Sport and Physical Education. Four major aims were the: (i) democratization and strengthening of the practice of physical education and sport for all in all member states and by all sections of the population; (ii) promotion of physical education and an integral part of lifelong learning; (iii) generalization of physical education and sport as a major tool not only for health and physical development but also for acquiring values necessary for social cohesion and intercultural dialogue; and (iv) launching of an awareness-raising and information campaign focused on an issue arousing popular support (Allman, 2004; Kluka, 2004). The creation of a degree major in physical education at the USP will be a timely complement to the United Nation’s call for more recognition. For a sport loving islands, a degree in physical education is, as a number of the participants said, long ‘overdue’.


A term referred to often if you go to the schools is the PEMAC (Physical education, music, and craft) department. These subjects, should have independence in their own rights (Mitchell, Miller, and Elder, 2005) than being clumped together. Prospective PE teachers should have their own freedom to combine it with any other subjects of their interest. Many PE teachers would not imagine having it combined with art, craft or music. It will not always fit with PE teachers’ interests. In New Zealand and Australia, for example, Tinning (2000, p. 12) asked “If HPE is the answer what is the question?”. Tinning scrutinizes the merger of health and physical education, as in New Zealand and Australia, because in the United Kingdom, United States of America and continental Europe, health education is separate from physical education. This health and physical education merger is the same complain of Liang, Walls, and Lu (2005) in China, because no extra time was allocated for PE when the health content came in. In Korea, for example, secondary school PE is a stand-alone subject (Yoo and Kim, 2005).


The Fiji secondary school PE prescription has a health and physical activity, sport education, sport science, outdoor education, and sport humanities orientation. Physical Education Teacher Education (PETE) programmes have the responsibility to produce graduates who have a comprehensive understanding of the key and current developments within PE. It is therefore important to critically appraise and analyze the syllabus (MacPhail and Halbert,2005). In the survey of two hundred PETE programmes in the USA, a wide variety of curricular models were espoused, with Sport Education the most emphasized in secondary teacher education, and skill themes the most emphasized in the elementary school preparation (Ayers, 2005). Because various curricular models exist in the physical education arena, it is important for student teachers to experience these models in depth during their preparation years. A PETE program focussing only on a couple of models will see their PE teachers unprepared to teach the school curricula to the full (Jenkins, 2004). USP course development should be responsive to regional PE curricula needs.


Moreover, part of quality PETE programmes is the staff content knowledge and pedagogical expertise of the courses offered, thus it is important fit staff expertise to teaching assignment. Disregard for this will further marginalize the status of PE (Shimon and  Brawdy, 2003). The issue is that you cannot have pedagogical content knowledge without content knowledge, and you cannot deliver the PETE programmes efficiently without pedagogical expertise. It is not acceptable for PE to be taught by teachers who do not posses the educational background, ability, and enthusiasm to do so (CARPHERD, 2000). PE teachers have to be prepared to meet the rigors, expectations, and responsibilities associated with delivering the Fiji secondary PE curriculum and regional countries.


Thus, it is imperative to have an informed curriculum development at the USP. Consulted PE teachers were very happy to simply be heard by someone. The teachers’ view should be one of the important voices to the strategic game plans of the University because they would form the base of consumers. Ishee (2005) commented that some researchers suggested that a contributory factor in the decline in physical education is lack of appropriately prepared teachers in physical education. This makes it paramount that the University prepares and supplies the best possible educational experiences for PE teacher trainees. This is particularly noteworthy, because according to Yoo and Kim (2005) many PETE programs are organised around the desires of faculty members than the needs of teachers who implement school curricula. The process of making the PETE program relevant and appropriate has to be ongoing. It must not be a one-off exercise but a continual shifting of current boundaries to better meet school curriculum. PETE institutions should willingly create new configurations and applications with shifting demands (MacDonald, Hunter, Carlson and Penney, 2002). PETE curriculum should be living entities; continually serviced, refurbished periodically, and relevant to schools (Siedentop and Locke, 1997).


Therefore, there are a few issues that would need to be reflected upon for the conceptualisation of the degree program in USP uncovered so far. USP’s PETE needs to be responsive to the current non-compulsory nature of PE in Fiji schools and can help lobby and built its status in the country; be responsive to alarming issues of lifestyle disease and physical inactivity and other shifting issues; use PE practitioners’ impediments to curriculum delivery to structure effective means to deal with; connect with schools that have strong and working  PE programs as ‘models’ for others and student teachers; include curriculum models and contents of the school syllabi in PETE; what schools do in inter-schools and intramurals and how to continually improve that; that intending PE teachers should choose whatever they want to combine PE with not just the PEMAC; attend to issues affecting school further away from the major city; and that the PETE program is delivered in a collaborative and connective environment.


Future research should embark on in-depth investigation into other member countries of the University of the South Pacific’s physical education and school sport situations: Cook Islands, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.


Physical education is a statutory requirement in Fiji secondary schools but its implementation varied, just like it is globally. There are examples of schools actively teaching PE, organise intramural and inter-school sports, but there is also the neglect of PE in a number of schools. PE is an integral part of our students’ education, and it should command the attention of parents, administrators, students, school board members, the ministry of education, sport federations, and tertiary institutions. Creating effective PE programs require connectivity and collaboration. Many groups drive curriculum decisions and PETE institutions are a key stakeholder. USP, as a regional University, should target precisely and ground itself on research-influenced PE curriculum development to better meet the needs of the Pacific Islands. Thus, such nexus will send a strong message that PE and school sport are central and not peripheral.



Authors would like to acknowledge and thank the School Research Committee of the University of the South Pacific (USP) to offer funding for the project. A sincere thanks to Mr. Abel Likaveke, a postgraduate student in the School of Education, USP, to help very well in the project. Also, our gratitude to Dr. Purushothamarao Thimmappa and Ms Lice Taufaga for giving feedback to our questionnaire. Finally, we would like to thank the Principals and PE teachers of participating Fiji secondary schools for receiving us so well.



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