PE in girls' schools



GIRLS’ sports and physical education have become a reality in our schools after even seeking the program was once considered a crime. Education officials used to distance themselves away from the program due to strong opposition from religious authorities.

When the late Education Minister Dr. Mohammed Al-Rasheed had worked as a consultant for girls’ education, then Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bin Baz had ratified his opinion on the issue. At the same time other department officials rejected his advice to introduce the program.

Bin Baz had reportedly asked education officials to apologize to Al-Rasheed for rejecting his opinion. I have mentioned this story in a previous article which I wrote citing Al-Rasheed’s biographical book “Maseerati Maal Hayat” (My Life Experiences).

Spreading girls’ sports has become one of the objectives of Vision 2030, which the Kingdom revealed last year. In a surprise announcement the Education Ministry said it would introduce physical education at girls’ schools from next academic year following Shariah regulations.

It said it would make use of available facilities at schools until indoor sports stadiums are constructed and adequate number of women physical education teachers are trained.

The ministry said it decided to introduce physical education for girls after a three-month study, which was conducted by a specialized team appointed by the minister after reviewing proposals and instructions given by authorities in this respect.

The team also studied prospects of introducing physical and health education at girls’ schools providing them with material, technical and human capabilities. It studied the cost of renovating and developing existing sports stadiums at girls schools. The team was also assigned to study the cost of constructing new indoor sports stadiums at schools.

I am not an opponent of introducing physical education at girls' schools but the situation of schools tells us two things that our ministry does not know about sports facilities at schools for boys and girls and how to implement physical education program at girls’ schools.

The ministry believes that the system can be introduced at schools soon after the minister’s approval. Even boys' schools, wherein physical education has already been introduced, do not have indoor stadiums. For them, physical education is just playing football.

Even boys' schools face shortage of physical education teachers because Saudi universities do not provide any course on this subject.

About five years ago, former deputy education minister for girls Noura Al-Fayez said physical education at girls’ schools will be introduced by enhancing infrastructure facilities at schools, establishing indoor stadiums and training female physical education teachers.

I believe that effective introduction of physical education at girls’ schools would also benefit boys as they would demand construction of indoor stadiums to ensure equality with girls.