Building peace in the minds of men and women

Promoting Quality Physical Education Policy

Quality Physical Education (QPE) represents active, inclusive, peer-led learning. A tailored QPE programme supports students to develop the physical, social and emotional skills which define self-confident and socially responsible citizens.



Why is QPE key?

Closing the Policy-Practice Gap 

To practically support governments develop inclusive, child-centered physical education policy which supports skills acquisition, UNESCO has developed a resource package in partnership with the European Commission, the International Bureau of Education (IBE)International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education (ICSSPE)International Olympic Committee (IOC)Nike, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Benefitting from the input of more than 50 organizations and individual experts, from all world regions, the Quality Physical Education policy package aims at:




The policy revision process

Using the Guidelines, UNESCO and partners are supporting 4 countries (Fiji, Mexico, South Africa and Zambia) to develop inclusive, child-centered PE policies.

The revised policies promote physical literacy and values-based learning as part of rounded development and global education priorities.

The revision process prioritizes the engagement of diverse stakeholders involved in, and affected by, the QPE policy, via consultations designed to reflect grassroots perspectives in upstream policy frameworks.

The input and expertise of peer review countries, engaged to share global good practice and provide guidance in the policy development, are underpinned by rigorous national and international monitoring and evaluation of project implementation.

The delivery of Quality Physical Education is stated as a priority in two main policy areas (I.3 and II.3) of the Kazan Action Plan which was adopted on 15 July 2017 by UNESCO’s Sixth International Conference of Ministers and Senior Officials Responsible for Physical Education and Sport (MINEPS VI). Should you be interested in addressing this specific policy issue, you can consult examples thanks to the two online tools listed below for reference:

  • To have access to the key documents developed during the policy revision process in the different QPE pilot countries and consult with the engaged national stakeholders, join the QPE E-teams on UNESCO’s Inclusive Policy Lab.
  • To learn more on how is the QPE policy revision process implemented in the four pilot countries, click on the following map:



Physical Literacy

Healthy, able and active citizens: the importance of physical literacy 

Physical literacy is the foundation of physical education, it is not a programme but an outcome of any structured physical education provision, which is achieved more readily if learners encounter a range of age and stage appropriate opportunities.

QPE should enable children and young people to become physically literate, and provision should feature from the early years through the entire school journey to secondary school education. Fundamental movement skills are a vital aspect of physical literacy and, also, to the development of healthy, able, and active citizens.

Considering its importance to rounded human development, policy-makers should place emphasis on this, supporting physical literacy through early years’ education programmes which encourage active play every day, such as running, jumping, climbing, dancing, and skipping.

The promotion of physical literacy should then remain a key feature of any physical education curriculum throughout primary and secondary education.

What does a physically literate person look like? 

Physically literate individuals possess assurance and self-confidence in-tune with their movement capabilities. They demonstrate sound coordination and control, and can respond to the demands of a changing environment.

They will relate well to others, demonstrating sensitivity in their verbal and non-verbal communication, and will have empathetic relationships. The physically literate individual will enjoy discovering new activities, and will welcome advice and guidance, confident in the knowledge that they will experience some success. 

The individual will appreciate the intrinsic value of physical education, as well as its contribution to health and well-being, and will be able to look ahead through the life course with the expectation that participation in physical activity will continue to be a part of life.

Source: Whitehead (2010)



In 2013, UNESCO joined forces with the North-Western Counties Physical Education Association (NWCPEA) to undertake a global survey and literature review on the situation of physical education. The fundamental aim of the research was to determine a set of benchmark indicators on Quality Physical Education (QPE), which could be framed as core aspects and be adopted and adapted for global implementation. 

The research concluded that there are instances of government-level policy commitment to physical education, but while some governments have committed themselves through legislation to school physical education provision, others have been either slow or reticent in translating this into action through actual implementation and assurance of quality of delivery.

The survey identified seven areas of concern:

  • Persistent gaps between PE policy and implementation;
  • Continuing deficiencies in curriculum time allocation; 
  • Relevance and quality of the PE curriculum; 
  • Quality of initial teacher training programmes; 
  • Inadequacies in the quality and maintenance of facilities; 
  • Continued barriers to equal provision and access for all; 
  • Inadequate school-community coordination.



Key findings show Participation in QPE, as part of a rounded syllabus, can support the development of:

  • Responsible, active global citizens
  • Skills and values, such as critical, creative and innovative thinking, problem-solving, decision making, empathy, interpersonal/communicative skills, respect, tolerance, and intercultural understanding, which are required to solve 21st century challenges
  • Physically literate pupils with the knowledge and confidence required for academic achievement
  • Lifelong engagement in physical activity

The cost of not investing:

  • Physical inactivity contributes to 3.2 million premature deaths annually and accounts for 6% of global mortality;
  • It is estimated that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) will become the major cause of death in Africa by 2030;
  • Physical inactivity causes more deaths than smoking;
  • 80.3% of 13-15 year olds worldwide do less than 60 minutes of exercise per day;
  • Children in early care and education spend only 2-3% of time being active.