The Importance of PSPE in PYP: The OWIS Commitment

Erin Smith
Updated on
March 30, 2021

Personal, social and physical education (PSPE), which is part of the core curriculum at One World International School (OWIS), empowers students through experiences designed to develop their sense of personal identity and their identity within their social and cultural context. Our curriculum goal is to find a balance between acquiring knowledge and skills with an understanding of how that knowledge applies to larger concepts; all while demonstrating constructive attitudes and taking responsible action. We believe that this aspect of the curriculum is essential and helps to develop our students into well rounded, global citizens who show understanding and empathy to those around them.

The PSPE curriculum promotes the development of knowledge, attitudes and skills that contribute to the physical, emotional, cognitive, spiritual and social well-being of the individual, in the classroom and beyond. It contributes to the students’ ability to maintain relationships with others as well as develop a deep understanding of one’s self. It teaches students that everyone is different, and this is why the world is such a special place. Ultimately, it fosters life-long participation in an active, healthy lifestyle.

Throughout our site, we have extolled the virtues of the International Baccalaureate curriculum: the transdisciplinary approach on which it is founded - to gain knowledge at the personal level, to then apply that knowledge to larger social concepts, all in an attempt to prepare a generation of future-ready lifelong learners. In this article, we will examine the Physical Education aspect of the PSPE curriculum and how it applies to the personal and social aspects of the PSPE curriculum.

Physical Education is Key to Personal Development

The importance of physical activity is unrefuted. It is so vital, in fact, that it has even come under the scope of the World Health Organization (WHO) whose aim it is to “achieve better health for everyone, everywhere.” In regards to physical activity, WHO has issued guidelines that state children should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity, bone- and muscle-bearing physical activity each day. The organisation goes on to say that, optimally, this exercise should be aerobic in nature and done no less than three times per week. It is essential that children have the opportunity to take part in a range of different sports and hobbies which will help them reach this level of physical activity each week. At OWIS, we understand that for some families this may be difficult outside of school, so for that reason, we ensure that our children have the opportunity to reach their required activity level during their school week.

It is widely accepted that physical activity helps both the brain and body. The body requires exercise to develop and function to its best ability. Physical activity increases metabolism, oxygenation and blood flow which delivers the hormones that are particularly important for childhood development. Alongside this, physical activity has a range of benefits with regards to boosting mood and aiding mental wellbeing. It can be a stress reliever and give children an outlet for their emotions.  

It is also widely recognised that physical activity also promotes neurological health. For decades, studies have revealed that the most obvious benefits of physical education for young students are an increase in perceptual skills and academic readiness. In 2016, a summation of two detailed studies featuring 24 researchers from eight countries, stated that “[physical activity] and cardiorespiratory fitness are beneficial to brain structure, brain function and cognition in children and youth…. [with] even a single session of moderate physical activity having an acute benefit to brain function, cognition and scholastic performance.”

Physical Education Impact on Social Responsibility

Physical education in the school system has far-reaching, lifelong effects. Physical activity has documented psychological benefits, helping young people to improve their control over symptoms of anxiety and depression. Further, physically active young people tend to eschew risky behaviours such as smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol, or using drugs. Often children who have a focus on sports or hobbies are higher achievers and less likely to take part in anti-social behaviours. 

Many proponents also recognise that early-childhood “participation in physical activity can assist in the social development of young people by providing opportunities for self-expression, building self-confidence, social interaction and integration.” (WHO, IJBNPA)

Even the Ministry of Education (MOE), Singapore, believes in the power of physical education as a vital component to developing healthy, well-adjusted future citizens. In its Physical Education Teaching and Learning Syllabus, Singapore officials explain:

“As students mature, the focus is on developing self-directed learners who see meaning in their sustained physical endeavours. They pursue physical activities that interest them and possess both the ability and willingness to accept responsibility for personal health and fitness. Students evaluate their lifestyles and adapt their participation in physical activities at different stages of their lives with an understanding of the health benefits derived, and how living active and healthy lives is connected with the world around them and the health of others.”


At OWIS, we believe in the power of physical activity both for the physical wellness of our students and for its ability to teach children about principles that extend far beyond the playing field. While introducing our students to mindful health practices through routine physical activities and purposeful health-enhancing exercises, students learn to adapt the lessons learned from their own physiology to other concepts. They are able to see first hand how exercise helps their bodies. 

For instance, they may be learning how the aerobic and anaerobic respiratory systems develop within their science lessons. They are then able to feel for themselves the difference in these systems while participating in different aspects of sports such as endurance running and short sprints. This further clarifies how everything they are learning is linked together in authentic situations.  

Students of our primary years’ programme (PYP) will be enrolled in two weekly PSPE sessions: the first is to explore the development of the individual, to encourage the child to discover who they are, what are their interests, their talents and their limitations. The second is dedicated to the functioning and well-being of the school community, encouraging them to identify their role within the group, to collaborate with others to solve problems and to think beyond their personal desires in an altruistic quest for the greater good.

The PSPE curriculum applies a three-strand approach to stimulate the student’s interest through self-directed activities and experiential learning that build the foundation for meaningful connections between their choices and the “greater cause”--through the practical application of good nutrition, exercise, safety and hygiene.

The three-strand Learning Continuums are:

● Identity - Our experience shapes us. We are influenced by our culture, environment, emotions, awareness, beliefs and values. Along with this, our upbringing and family dynamic will shape our identity. Through individual or team sports, we learn to recognise our strengths and limitations. We develop our ability to cope with adversity and change. We learn that not everything goes to plan but that the key is to keep trying. We come to understand how our concept of self-worth affects our approach to learning and our interactions with others. We learn that everyone comes from different walks of life, and it is important to understand that this can shape their beliefs differently to our own. Compassion is essential, and being able to take on board other’s opinions is important. 

● Active Living - Many factors contribute to a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Through the engagement of healthy habits, healthy lifestyles, we are better equipped to understand the consequences of our choices. We are also better set to help support others around us to make healthy decisions. Students learn how to voice their thoughts about health. For instance, they may have learnt about a balanced diet in school and then want to discuss ideas with their parents about how to improve their own families’ eating habits. By having up to date and relevant information, students are able to put across their thoughts in a constructive and supportive way.  Through the application of knowledge and healthy patterns, we begin to understand how to prevent possible illness and our responsibility to ourselves and others to promote well being. Through exercise and nutrition, we develop agility, balance, reflexes, and coordination, and as we do so, we learn that movement, too, is a form of expression. We learn that physical health and mental health are linked together and that exercise can be an incredibly effective stress reliever.

● Interaction - The team dynamic teaches us how to collaborate and solve problems; it teaches us to respect others for their diversity of skills, talents, interests as well as inspires us to foster kindness and respect for each other’s similarities and differences. It teaches us that someone else’s strength could be your weakness, but that by working together, you can both learn from one another and tackle the end goal. It shows children that it takes different skills to win a game. That sometimes the fastest runner is not the one who scores the goals. That teamwork is essential, and supporting each other in a positive way is the best way to beat the opponent.  It helps develop a sense of social responsibility which can then be adapted as we learn to be stewards of the Earth for future generations. Students learn that everyone can make a difference, and by working together, they can achieve the greater good.

Our PSPE programme encourages our students to join activities that interest them, to develop the ability and self-confidence needed to accept responsibility for their personal health and fitness choices and to prepare them to work in teams working toward a common goal. Here, they develop skills to cope with pressure, to collaborate with others, to share victories and rebound from defeat with grace and dignity. Through the PSPE programme, our students develop positive attitudes, self-esteem, and a lifelong desire for continual participation in healthy, active lifestyles while discovering who they are as an individual and how they fit into society as a whole.


The Singaporean Ministry Of Education sums it up nicely:

Competition provides a platform for students to apply the skills and values learnt during physical education lessons in an authentic serves as an important platform to expose our students to real-life sports settings and in the process, acquire relevant 21st Century competencies to cope with the fast-changing world.

If you would like to find out more about our PSPE curriculum, then please do not hesitate to get in touch.

About Author

Erin Smith

Senior Coordinator - Primary, PYP Senior Coordinator

Erin originally hails from Australia where she earned both her Bachelor’s Degree in Primary Teaching/Arts and a Master’s Degree in Educational Studies (major in ICT/Digital Learning) from the University of Newcastle. Erin has been in primary education for more than 10 years with experience in international schools. Prior to moving to Singapore, Erin taught students in Japan, Germany and Australia.

With extensive experience in the Primary Years Programme and as an Enrichments Specialist, Erin is thrilled to be able to share her knowledge and expertise with students at the OWIS Nanyang Campus. Erin engages her students in learning experiences that challenge thinking, heighten curiosity, and open their minds. Erin strives to help each individual student create a positive mindset, fostering their ability to become lifelong learners and incredible human beings.

Traveling is one of Erin’s favourite pastimes. Her travels have taken Erin throughout Europe, America, and Asia. Erin also enjoys physical fitness, keeping up with the latest in technology, reading fantasy novels, playing with her cat Charlie. Time with family is also important to Erin. She and her engineer husband are proud parents to two children.

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