Agenda 2030 is a universal call for all countries and stakeholders to create an inclusive and equal society to improve the lives of people worldwide and to give our planet a better future. Currently humanity faces a number of global challenges such as poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice. These global challenges is the point of departure for Agenda 2030 and its 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs). In addition to education, both physical activity and sport have been acknowledged as part of the roadmap to realise the Agenda 2030. In this article, we were interested in what perspectives related to school physical education (PE) and health in the context of Agenda 2030 and its SDGs that have been discussed in research literature. Therefore, we conducted a review related to the distinct role of PE and health in the context of Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
As a school subject that touches on education, physical activity, and sport, it seems reasonable to acknowledge that PE and health may contribute to several SDGs. These may include, but are not limited to, good health and well-being (#3), quality education (#4), gender equality (#5), decent work and economic growth (#8), reducing inequality (#10), sustainable cities and communities (#11), and climate action (#13).
Moreover, Agenda 2030 and its SDGs may also provide a new departure point for the field of PE and health. We argue that this is relevant as the subject has been faced with widespread criticism due to the multi-activity-based curriculum, with less focus on learning, and the non-inclusive classroom environment.
Nonetheless, a critical question is how sustainability can be understood, framed and integrated in PE and health. As far as we know, there exists no systematic search of the literature about the distinct role of PE and health in the context of Agenda 2030 and its SDGs. We believed, however, that such a review would be of interest to the field of PE and health.
During the process of screening the 4,300 papers, we only found three papers that met the inclusion criteria.
To identify relevant papers, we systematically searched five electronic databases in March 2021. These were Education Research Complete, ERIC, Education database, SportDiscus, and Scopus. We used comprehensive search strings that had previously been developed by other researchers in an effort to identify research that can be related to the SDGs. The search resulted in more than 11,000 papers of which about 4,300 had been published since the Agenda 2030 was set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015.
The titles and abstracts of the 4,300 papers were screened and reviewed for eligibility using inclusion criteria. We included any kind of paper that was published in a peer-reviewed English-language journal and i) was relevant for pupils and students in primary and/or secondary education, and/or higher education, and ii) discussed key ideas, such as concepts, viewpoints and issues, related to the distinct role of PE and health in the context of Agenda 2030 and any of the SDGs.
During the process of screening the 4,300 papers, we only found three papers that met the inclusion criteria. These three papers suggest that PE and health can contribute to the SDGs good health and well-being (#3) and quality education (#4). In one of the papers, the authors even suggested that eight SDGs could be worked on in PE and health: good health and well-being (#3), quality education (#4), gender equality (#5), decent work and economic growth (#8), reducing inequality (#10), responsible consumption and production (#12), climate action (#13), and peace, justice, and strong institutions (#16). This could be done by the use of different practice-based PE and health models, such as the content of curriculum model, cooperative learning model, and personal and social responsibility model.
Based on our findings, we conclude that Agenda 2030 and the SDGs has received little attention in the field of PE and health. In terms of future work, we therefore encourage researchers and practitioners to critically reflect on questions such as:
- What can Agenda 2030 and its SDGs mean in relation to PE and health?
- How can sustainability be understood, integrated and converted into innovative ways to teach PE and health?
These questions are also central to the recently initiated research project called “Physical educatiOn, health and SuStaInaBILITY” (POSSIBILITY) as part of an established research line at the Department of Food and Nutrition and Sport Science at University of Gothenburg.
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