Emeritus Prof. Dr. Ian CULPAN

Can Physical Education Survive: Is it Worth Saving?

The future of PE in schools is very uncertain. The political push for school subjects that more overtly support the political economy of the State is only one threat to its survival. Across the globe, questions are being asked of its educative and social worth. What is certain for PE is, that if it is to make clear and coherent contributions to the education of young people, some significant re-thinking of current practices needs to occur. The gathering global focus on wellbeing presents PE with an opportunity to realign itself to better serve the needs of young people. To realign, radical change needs to be led by academics collaborating and working with and alongside political decision makers, policy advisors, practitioners and young people. Changes will need to be future orientated, collaborative, and multidisciplinary. This will necessitate re-conceptualisations of the subject and compel visionary thinking. This presentation will exam possibilities for new directions and draw on some present attempts to plot a reformed future. It will highlight the importance of PE: 1) needing to align itself with new ideas associated with wellbeing; 2) focussing on creating personal and collective meanings for its learners; 3) capturing society’s perceptions of the valued aspects of physical culture and its association with a flourishing life; 4) collaborating with agencies and professional services in order to address emergent social problems.

Emeritus Prof. Dr. Ian CULPAN


Co-Director of the New Zealand Centre for Olympic Studies
Physical Education and Sport Studies
University of Canterbury




Prof. Dr. Ian Culpan has recently been promoted to Emeritus Professor in the School of Health Sciences and was the Head of the School of Sciences and Physical Education at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand 2007-2012. He was one of two principal writers of the national health and physical education curriculum and chaired the national standards body for senior school qualifications. He was the president of the New Zealand Olympic Academy (2000-2008): and has served as the president of Federation Internationale d’Education Physique. (FIEP Oceania) where he is currently the NZ delegate. He is the director of the New Zealand Centre for Olympic Studies, a Trustee of International Alpha Upsilon Chi, Chair of the FutureSport Trust and is a board member of the Sport Museum of New Zealand and until recently Physical Education New Zealand. He has been awarded the International Olympic Committee Trophy twice (2000 & 2014) for his teaching and research in education and sport; and was the 7th person in the history of physical education in New Zealand to be awarded the prestigious Sir Alexander Gillies Medal for Physical Education. He was awarded a University of Canterbury teaching fellowship, been a visiting Professor at Charles University in the Czech Republic and a visiting Professor at the German Sport University Cologne, University of Peloponnese and the International Olympic Academy, Greece, Kristianstad University Sweden, Nanjing Normal University, China and University of Tsukuba, Japan. He is a National: Fellow for Physical Education New Zealand, has served on an advisory panel for UNESCO and co coordinated the New Zealand All Blacks leadership programme. He is also a very active member of the Global Forum for Physical Education Pedagogy and is a Scientific Advisor for Global Community Health Foundation.