Getting Into Shape

By Kwan Jin Yao

“In a speech highlighting 10 areas of concern, the NMP said it is worrying that young people do not enjoy sports and wondered if they participated in sports activities only to accumulate Co-Curricular Activities (CCA) points” (Sports Facilities in Every School to be Opened to the Public: Lawrence Wong , Ian De Cotta)

The announcement to open sporting facilities in every Singapore school to encourage mass participation in sports is welcomed, though it is less clear whether Minister of Culture, Community, and Youth (MCCY) Lawrence Wong did address the concerns raised by Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Ben Tan (TODAY, Jan. 20). The NMP had asked about the low rates of exercise among Singaporeans and the sentiment that young people do not enjoy sports, and while Minister Wong spoke generally on the sports programmes under ActiveSG and the physical education curriculum, the response could have been more rigorous.

Some may quibble that public usage of these sporting locations may interfere with school activities or – quite hyperbolically – threaten the safety and wellbeing of schoolchildren, but the present facilities under the Dual-Use Scheme have worked out great thus far.

For instance Minister Wong noted that “significant shifts have also been made to encourage more people to adopt sports as a lifestyle”, yet does not go into detail on the effectiveness of the ActiveSG initiative. How many more Singaporeans are now part of these programmes, and – more importantly – do they continue with their commitments in the long run? Updates collected by the MCCY show that exercise participation levels have risen above 60 per cent, a supposed improvement from 50 and 42 per cent in 2005 and 2011 respectively (figures from the National Sports Participation Survey), but the distribution across ages is not clear.

Aggregated results from the National Physical Fitness Awards (Napfa) test can indicate the fitness of the general student population.

Based on the latest National Health Survey, NMP Tan also referenced the increase in obesity levels from 6.9 per cent in 2004 to 10.8 per cent 2010. In the same study it would appear that the prevalence of obesity is consistent across the age groups, between the range of 10.6 and 12.3 per cent for those aged 18 to 59 years old. In this vein, besides working more intensely with the Ministry of Education on its revised physical education, sports development, and co-curricular recognition systems, the MCCY should assess the efficacy of its present offerings.

Aggregated results from the National Physical Fitness Awards (Napfa) test can indicate the fitness of the general student population. In his question NMP Tan could only substantiate with anecdotes from two polytechnic lecturers, who estimated that “60 to 70 per cent of poly students would fail their [Napfa] test”. Such quantitative feedback can be coupled with on-the-ground discussions with students and working Singaporeans, to fairly ascertain MCCY’s endeavours to get more people to take up sports.

This post was first published over at the blog of Kwan Jin Yao on 21 January 2015. It is reproduced with permission.


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