Non-academic students enjoy school more, research shows

Rachel Halpin

The study which found that pupils who enjoyed physical education and the arts engaged more in school life and activities.

Students who enjoy non-academic subjects are more likely to engage in school life, according to a study led by University of Limerick (UL).


Dr. Enrique Garcia Bengoechea from the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences in UL is the lead researcher in the study which found that pupils who enjoyed physical education and the arts engaged more in school life and activities.


“At this point, we think that the more holistic nature of physical education and arts education, compared to “core” academic subjects such as maths, sciences, and language arts, may help explain that of all curricular factors considered in our study, enjoyment of physical education and arts education were the strongest contributors to student engagement among the study participants,” Bengoechea said.


“For example, physical education and arts education typically provide opportunities for initiative, creativity and social interaction that other academic subjects do not provide. In addition, physical education can be considered more ‘holistic’ due to the circumstance that not only the “mind” but also the “body” is involved,” he added.


The study assessed more than 1700 early or middle adolescent pupils from the ages of 12 to 15. They used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth, a long-term study of Canadian children.


Bengoechea is working in collaboration with Dr. Lisa Lorenzino from the Schulich School of Music at McGill University in Montreal and Dr. Shirley Gray from the Institute for Sport, Physical education and Health Sciences at the University of Edinburgh.


Within the study they also account for other factors that may also have an effect on school life participation, which included family, peers, the individual (gender) and community. In their study they found that even after accounting for all these facts the enjoyment of physical education was to greatest contributor to feeling connect to school for 12 and 13 year olds.


With 14 and 15 year olds the most important contributor to school engagement was a combination of taking part in school-based extracurricular art, drama or music activities and feelings of connection to their peers.


Bengoechea thinks that the finding of the study provide evidence about the importance of physical education and the arts in the school curriculum, particularly in the transition from primary to secondary school


The researchers hope to continue the study, they hope to look into the findings and determine if there is a pattern in different geographical or cultural contexts and over time.

Rachel Halpin

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