Exploring Barriers to Physical Education in Barbados

by HCC

Alissa Terp joined HCC as a Student Intern for 3 months in 2020, during this time she worked on a a project entitled ‘Exploring Barriers to Physical Education in Barbados’. Alissa is studying Global Nutrition and Health at the University College Copenhagen in her home country of Denmark.

Exploring Barriers to Physical Education in BarbadosMy name is Alissa Terp and I am currently studying Global Nutrition and Health at University College Copenhagen in Denmark. As a part of my education I have to complete 2 internships before graduating. Two of the areas that I am most passionate about is physical activity (PA) and change of habits. and I was lucky to be able to work on a project that allowed me to explore PA amongst adolescents in Barbados.

WHO recommends 60 minutes of daily activity for children and adolescents. Being physically active comes with several benefits, but most importantly for childhood obesity prevention, it helps to maintain a healthy body weight. Studies have shown students’ ability to focus improves after being physically active along with improved test scores when being continually physically active. Despite the benefits, results from the Global School-Based Student Health Survey conducted in 2011 by WHO highlights the problem of physical inactivity amongst adolescents in Barbados. Only 29.1% of Barbadian students had been physically active for a total of at least 60 minutes a day on 5 days or more during the past 7 days.

Exploring Barriers to Physical Education in BarbadosThe goal of the project was to investigate barriers towards PA and physical education (PE) amongst adolescents in Barbados. To do this, I wanted to get better insight into the PE environment in secondary schools by interviewing PE teachers. This included identifying barriers experienced by teachers, students and those related to facilities and equipment. when it comes to students, engagement and facilities along with equipment. Additionally, I wanted to get insight into the adolescents’ feelings and barriers through a survey. Unfortunately, due to the impact of COVID-19 and closure of schools it was not possible to have students fill out surveys.

Through my interviews with the PE teachers at Secondary Schools, I learned a general lack of appreciation for their subject from both parents and colleagues at the schools. It is important to share knowledge about the benefits of PE and making the subject equally important as the rest of the subjects taught in secondary schools. Most PE teachers saw a lack of indoor facilities as barriers for students to participate due to the hot weather. Motivating the girls was the hardest for the teachers. Having more free play in PE could potentially increase participation as there would not be a focus on competing amongst the students. It is recommended to get greater equipment at the schools which also will increase the PA in the lunch breaks.

Exploring Barriers to Physical Education in Barbados visual.

Exploring Barriers to Physical Education in BarbadosCivil Society Organizations and the community are encouraged to raise their voices to advocate a less obesogenic environment including holding events to create awareness of PA Furthermore encouraging ‘open street’ events could increase the PA level of the citizens as there will be no interference from traffic on these days and there is a greater opportunity to be active outside with friends and families. The events could incorporate different classes of dance, tai chi, yoga, rope skipping, etc. along with big areas of the streets closed for biking, running and free play.

As children and youth spend most of their time in schools, it is very important to create an active environment there. Adding Brain Breaks and Active Learning will help increase the PA level of the students. Brain Breaks can be small active breaks for 3-10 used in the classroom. Small active breaks have increased students’ ability to focus in the classroom. Furthermore PA can be used in the classroom as a part of learning. This can involve including active games while teaching various subject.

I developed posters for Brain Breaks during my internship. Hopefully by creating awareness and inspirations for Brain Breaks this will increase the PA within the classroom and ultimately contribute to increased PA behaviors of students in schools on Barbados.

A special thanks to HCC Advocacy Officer, Danielle Walwyn, who assisted Alissa significantly. Danielle is passionate about physical activity and recently graduated from Queens University in Canada with her MSc focussing on Health Promotion