by Josh Symes

In part one, the notion and concept of physical literacy was explored. Part two considers the fundamental and significant aspects of physically literate individuals, and physical literacy at SAS.

Click here to read Understanding Physical Literacy: Part One

What are the attributes of a physically literate individual?
As the definition states, physical literacy is aimed at developing someone who is motivated, confident, physically competent, knowledgeable, and understands the importance of physical activity throughout the life course. The disposition of a physically literate individual is characterized by an understanding of the importance of movement and the maintenance of a positive attitude toward physical activity as a lifelong pursuit. All humans possess movement potential, but the range of movement and competence of movement is largely influenced by individual endowment and cultural background. The level of competence, poise, and confidence in movement becomes evident in more challenging physical situations. It is in these circumstances that physically literate individuals will be perceptive in ‘reading’ all aspects of the environment and anticipating movement and responding appropriately. This physically literate individual will also demonstrate a well-established sense of self, and awareness of their personal capabilities, leading to fluent self-expression and engendering positive self-esteem and self-confidence.

Physical literacy, as a concept, has grown in recognition throughout sports and physical activity institutions across the world. Many programs throughout Australia,  Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand, and various European countries focus on the development of physical literacy, as opposed to a more traditional model. The Society for Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE), in the US, have more recently adopted the concept and developed new standards with a focus on this approach. Canada utilizes the Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) program as one of its guiding documents in aligning key values and practices in physical activity learning. The LTAD provides a framework for each national sporting organization to develop and implement physical literacy programs that are developmentally appropriate. Canada’s goal is to have all athletes physically literate by the age of 12. Physical literacy is not only considered to be the foundation for the development of elite sports people, it is also seen as being a key in the development of a healthy nation. The goal of all nations in the development of physically literate individuals is to focus on the person as a whole and to create knowledgeable, able, and competent movers.

We were born to move, and in becoming a physically literate being we are capitalizing on an aspect of our human potential, which in turn helps us to develop the foundations to maximize other physical, social, and emotional capabilities. Physical literacy is an overarching term that is used to describe holistic wellness and the development of life purpose, and an appreciation that our surrounding environment is meaningful. Depression, anxiety, and mental illness are now an epidemic, which also coincide with an increase of sedentary lifestyle. A physically literate individual develops a strong awareness of self, and according to studies by Whitehead et al. (2008), it builds self-esteem, confidence, and an improved quality of life.

Physical Literacy at Singapore American School
In our context at SAS, the concept of physical literacy underpins our philosophical approach, aligns us in the work we do, and helps us to create a common language and understanding that guides our curriculum and assessment development, program development, and instructional practice.

The SAS physical education vision is to cultivate a passion for lifelong wellness and physical literacy for all. This guides our mission in developing physically literate individuals who demonstrate social responsibility (character), reflective thinking (critical thinker), and understand the enjoyment and benefits of lifelong wellness. To achieve this, we provide a range of experiences (challenges) for students to develop the concepts of collaboration (social interaction), creativity, communication, and self-expression through movement.

As practitioners who are aiming to develop physically literate individuals, we aspire to:

  • Have a clear understanding of the key principles and philosophies of physical literacy to guide our values and beliefs.
  • Develop motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge, and understanding to maintain physical activity throughout the life course;
  • Be patient, caring and empathetic, as well as challenging in setting high standards at all times.
  • Understand the most appropriate instructional practices, and the impact on all attributes of physical literacy.
  • Reflect critically and constructively on all aspects of our teaching, coaching and in offering what is best for our students.

Click here to read Understanding Physical Literacy: Part One


Whitehead 1, M. (2001). The concept of physical literacy. European Journal of Physical Education6(2), 127-138.

Whitehead, M. (2008). Physical literacy: Philosophical considerations in relation to developing a sense of self, universality and propositional knowledge. Sports Ethics and Philosophy1(3), 281-298.

Whitehead, M. (Ed.). (2010). Physical literacy: Throughout the lifecourse. Routledge.

Whitehead, M. (2016). Physical literacy: Throughout the lifecourse (2nd ed.). Routledge


  • health
  • physical education
  • teacher



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