Education and perception of female professionals in the field of physical education

The government has been propagating a holistic approach while educating students through physical activities. The acceptance and understanding of this concept are imperative to ensure success. The Global Index of Quality Physical Education developed by a research team in 2019 analysed the perception regarding the development of PE in Macau. This project was supported by the University of Macau and developed through the endorsement of four international associations - the International Society for Comparative Physical Education and Sport (1SCPES), International Association of Physical Education and Sport for Girls and Women (IAPESGW), International Federation of Adapted Physical Activity (IFAPA), and Federation Internationale d’ Education Physique (FIEP). In mid-2019, the questionnaire (Ho, Ahmed & Kukurova, 2021) was sent to professionals in Macau; 84 valid responses - 37 (44%) from female and 47 (56%) from male professionals in the field of PE - were received. Seventeen (46%) female respondents had less than five years of work experience in the field, and the remainder had more. Although there is no official demographic figure regarding teachers in the field, this number may reveal the priority and interest of the younger female professionals.

The study included professionals’ responses related to eight different dimensions - skill development and bodily awareness (SDBA), facilities and norms in physical education (FNPE), quality teaching of physical education (QTPE), plans for feasibility and accessibility of physical education (PFAPE), social norms and cultural practices (SNCP), governmental input in physical education (GIPE), cognitive skill development (CSD), and habituated behaviour in physical activities (HBPA). The range of the questionnaire’s items was calculated on a Likert scale from 0 to 10 (0 = totally not achieved, 10 = fully achieved).

The results indicated that the female respondents had a positive perception of the progress of work in PE. The FNPE dimension was rated the highest, followed by SDBA. The female respondents gave a positive evaluation to FNPE, which is based on questions related to the suitability of the environment for teaching and the availability of equipment and facilities for teaching and learning of PE. This indicates that they are satisfied with the resources available and the environment for teaching PE and believes that all children, regardless of their ability or disability, gender, age, culture, ethnicity, religion, and social or economic background, have access to it. It also indicates their appreciation of the policies and opportunities for learning physical activities through the support of sports-related, after-school, or extracurricular activity programmes in schools, which makes the teaching and learning of PE fun and enjoyable.

The order of the remaining dimensions from the highest evaluated to the lowest is as follows: SNCP, HBPA, GIPE, QTPE, PFAPE, and CSD. Children in Macau have numerous opportunities to engage in physical programmes and activities, and these programmes are quite well established. However, there is a lack of focus on the development of cognitive skills. Thus, CSD received the lowest rating. Female respondents indicated the lack of focus on the development of critical and innovative thinking skills and problem-solving and independent thinking abilities. Furthermore, it has been observed that PE programmes do not sufficiently encourage children to develop socially acceptable moral thinking skills.

Based on the observation of the perception of professionals’ views regarding PE, it is evident that there are no differences between the two genders’ perceptions based on the eight dimensions. Their perceptions of the quality of development of PE are very similar. Jurbala (2015) analysed physical literacy and stated that it refers to the ability and motivation to move with potential and confidence in a wide variety of physically challenging situations. The individual’s intelligence and imagination are important for this ability. This view seems to be the core problem vis-à-vis women’s behaviour in sports and physical activities.

It highlights the fact that even though both genders have equal opportunities to exercise, there are certain differences when it comes to ground reality as there is something missing in the decision-making process. This is also reflected in other studies in Macau. For example, Choi (2011) studied the self-efficacy and social support available for sports and exercises for Macau primary school students, and 780 students participated (56% male and 44% female). The study indicated that certain differences exist in sports behaviour development based on gender -male students usually receive higher support from family to participate in sports activities. This situation was described further in Cheong’s (2011) with students from three secondary schools in Macau, 301 students answered a questionnaire related to their participation in after-school programmes - most male students participated in sports-related activities, while female students favoured activities related to leisure. According to Yang (2015) male students usually receive higher support from family, peers, and friends for sports participation. Similar results were also observed by Tang (2017) regarding parental support and sports-related confidence among Macau high school students. The reason for the lack of support is complicated but may be related to inadequate sports performances among girls. Yang (2015) highlighted that there were differences in performances and achievements between boys and girls; this factor may contribute to low motivation for sports participation in girls. Lei’s (2017) study with 703 female high school students identified different factors that have a negative impact on their desire to exercise. The results indicated that the factors that have the biggest impact include the time required for studying, exercise venue, and school curriculum. It also identified limitations of the venue and school curriculum as structural constraints and psychological factors such as motivation and personal success as internal constraints.

The Macau Institute of Sport presented a report on the physical condition of Macau citizens in 2015; it confirmed the observation that men are more motivated than women when it comes to sports participation (Institute do Desporto do Governo da RAEM, 2016). It stated that women are more interested in arts, dance, and painting, such participation trend seems to be developed during adolescence. Sam (2017) observed that boys favoured sports activities and girls had greater interest in arts and academic activities. This difference seems to be the norm between boys and girls, and this trend has persisted for some time in society (Lei, 2013). Vong’s (2005) study clarified that this trend indicates a wider gap in leisure satisfaction between men and women in their forties but shows the opposite in those under the age of 15 and between 50 and 59. Results indicated that women prefer active lifestyles during childhood, youth, and adolescence and change during working age, especially when they have family responsibilities. With this understanding and observations, it is worth considering if there is an inefficient and insufficient development of physical literacy among female students. It appears that the development of suitable programmes to enhance the self-efficacy of female students for exercise at different stages is needed (Aziz et al., 2013; Nigg et al., 2011). Strategies to promote experiences in sports and related activities are necessary to enhance women’s active living (Ahmed, Ho, Van Niekerk, Sulz, &. Begum, 2020; Fleury &. Lee, 2006; Ho, 2019; Smith, Troped, McDonough, &. DeFreese, 2015).

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