School HPE: its mandate, responsibility and role in educating for social cohesion.
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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In a world of increasing diversity in which many established democracies are now consumed by capitalist individualism and protectionist ideals, a focus on equity and social justice is particularly pertinent. For many years, scholars have proposed that schools have the educational responsibility to prepare children for peaceful living in a heterogeneous society and claimed that health and physical education (HPE) activities at school can enhance interpersonal relations, and social cohesion. This paper explores the definition of social cohesion, as well as theories that support its inclusion in school practices before drawing on observational and interview data from of an international project that reveal how HPE teachers across three different countries teach for social cohesion. In our analysis of the data, we employ Allport’s ‘Contact Theory’ (1954) and Pettigrew’s (1998) extension of this theory to conceptualise and interpret the teaching for social cohesion in HPE practice. Within the overarching theme of teaching for social cohesion we present and discuss five sub-themes as examples of the teachers’ pedagogies: (1) a focus on inclusiveness; (2) the inclusion of culturally inclusive practices; (3) building teacher/student and student/student relationships; (4) planning and structuring activities for students to work together in heterogeneous teams while focusing on cooperation; and (5) focusing on personal and social responsibility by encouraging adherence to the principles of fair play and democratically determined rules. We conclude by stating that HPE should be recognised for its role in creating opportunities for constructive social interaction between students of difference, which can contribute to greater inclusion, social cohesion and ultimately social justice in society.