Physical education is a graded subject in the UAE's public schools. And yet large numbers of Dubai schoolchildren routinely skip these classes, The National reported yesterday. This is not a decision that should be left to children, any more than the decision to skip maths or language classes.
A Dubai Health Authority survey has found that half of the 208 state and private schools surveyed allow pupils to substitute PE classes with other activities despite the regulations.
In 2010, the number of PE lessons in UAE public schools was increased to three a week for pupils up to grade 7. However, not every school gives it the time and the priority, as other subjects are seen as more important. The authority has proposed making PE compulsory for primary and secondary schools.
The promotion of healthy lifestyles and fitness in UAE schools is essential in a country where, as the Ministry of Health found in 2010, 38.4 per cent of pupils are overweight and 14.4 per cent are obese.
Existing initiatives aimed at making exercise classes more fun are worthwhile, but PE should not be voluntary.
Schools cannot, however, create a generation of fit children on their own. Parents, too, have a responsibility to supervise diet and lifestyle so their children grow up healthy and fit.