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UNESCO promotes quality physical education to accelerate COVID recovery efforts

UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, has launched two new publications on quality physical education, aimed at accelerating COVID recovery efforts at national level and building a “new normal”, founded on inclusion and resilience:  

  • Making the case for inclusive Quality Physical Education policy development: a policy brief: The evidence-based policy brief presents the case for investment in quality physical education (QPE). Content draws directly on findings from in-country interventions which demonstrate the value of inter-sectoral partnerships in QPE policy development and the delivery of low cost/high impact QPE programming which stands to accelerate post-COVID recovery efforts. A series of practical recommendations are included for public and private stakeholders in the sport-education ecosystems, alongside resources to support the implementation of recommendations. 
    Target audience: Policy-makers, sport movement, institutions and private companies with stakes in sport, education and/or physical activity sectors. 
  • How to influence the development of Quality Physical Education policy: a policy advocacy toolkit for youth: The toolkit is designed to support young people and youth organisations to advocate for and effectively contribute to the development of quality physical education policy. It offers general principles for successful policy advocacy that can be adapted based on what best suits different national contexts and policy development processes. The sections include an evidence-based rationale for youth policy engagement, tested techniques to inspire impact-oriented advocacy strategies and practical checklists to navigate physical education (PE) policy development processes. 
    Target audience: Youth activists, youth organisations, grassroots sport and/or physical education enthusiasts, educators.  

Contrary to traditional physical education programmes which take a “one size fits all” approach, quality physical education is grounded in the equality of opportunity for all students to access a well-balanced and inclusive curriculum. It supports the acquisition of psychomotor, social and emotional skills which define self-confident and resilient citizens. It also emphasizes the value of physical literacy as a key developmental milestone contributing to body ownership, physical competency and enjoyment in lifelong physical activity.

COVID-19 has spotlighted the value of good health and resilience (physical, mental, social and economic). Almost a quarter of the world’s population have an underlying health condition which increases their vunerability to the virus. Mental health issues have increased exponentially during Coronavirus, particularly amongst youth, and physical inactivity can now be considered as a parallel pandemic, contributing to 5 million premature deaths annually. 

Participation in quality physical education programmes improves physical health, decreases chronic mental health conditions and builds socio-emotional resilience. It also provides a high impact/low cost gateway to lifelong participation in physical activity across the lifespan. #QPE4Life #Fit4Life

French and Spanish version of these publications will be available shortly. For more information please contact Nancy McLennan at