7 January 2021

Low Levels Shown on CUHK’s First Hong Kong Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth with Special Educational Needs



An interdisciplinary research team at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) has compiled Asia’s first report card on physical activity for children and youth with special educational needs (SEN). The results show that children and youth with SEN in Hong Kong do not have an adequate level of physical activity, and the level is far lower than those with typical development. Based on the results, the research team put forward recommendations to promote physical activity opportunities among children and youth with SEN in Hong Kong.

Worst performance in “Overall Physical Activity”; highest grade in “School”

With the comprehensive and systematic synthesis of the physical activity related indicators set by the Active Healthy Kids Global Alliance, the report card is graded according to nine indicators with reference to the international benchmarks. These are “Overall Physical Activity”, “Organized Sport Participation”, “Active Play”, “Active Transportation”, “Sedentary Behaviors”, “Family & Peers”, “School”, “Community & Environment” and “Government Strategies & Investments”.

A comprehensive search of the last ten years’ academic and non-academic literature on each indicator was conducted, including published journal articles, local relevant journals, governmental and organizational reports. The letter grades are assigned based on the proportion of children and youth with SEN meeting the predefined benchmark(s) for each indicator. Views and comments from stakeholders (include higher education, professional bodies, schools, the government and NGOs) were collected and considered.

Children and youth with SEN in Hong Kong perform the worst in “Overall Physical Activity” and were assigned grade F, the lowest in the grading system. This implies that less than 20% of the target population met the international recommendation of at least 60 minutes per day of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, reflecting extremely low levels of physical activity. The “School” indicator receives a grade B, in which around 70% of the schools provide physical education classes with more than 70 minutes per week and offer physical activity opportunities to their students. This indicates that schools have made a concerted effort to promote physical activity for children and youth with SEN.

“Sedentary behaviors” is graded D+. 35% of the children and youth with SEN met the benchmark of no sitting for prolonged periods of one hour at a time. “Government Strategies & Investments” is graded C-, indicating that the Government has provided support and funding for promoting physical activity in children and youth with SEN, but more efforts are needed.

The other five indicators, namely “Organized Sport Participation”, “Active Play”, “Active Transportation”, “Family & Peers” and “Community & Environment” cannot be graded due to insufficient data.

Comparisons between children and youth with SEN and with typical development in Hong Kong

Compared with children and youth with typical development, the results for which were published in the 2018 Hong Kong Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth, SEN children and youth receive a higher grade in “School” (grade B) than those with typical development (grade C). However, children and youth with SEN have lower grades in “Overall Physical Activity” (grade F vs. grade C-), “Sedentary Behaviors” (grade D+ vs. grade C-) and “Government Strategies & Investments” (grade C- vs. grade C).

Comparisons among children and youth with SEN in Hong Kong, Finland and the Netherlands

Finland first announced the results of children and youth with SEN in a separate chapter in their report card on physical activity among children and youth in 2018 (without assigning letter grades), and the Netherlands issued report card specifically for children and youth with SEN in 2017 and 2018 (with letter grades). The report card conducted by CUHK for Hong Kong is the third of its kind.

Compared with children and youth with SEN in the Netherlands Report Card 2018, children and youth with SEN in Hong Kong perform worse in “Overall Physical Activity” (grade F), while the Netherlands receive grade D+. In “Sedentary Behaviors”, Hong Kong receives grade D+ and performs similar with the Netherlands (grade D).

Suggestions for “Healthy SEN Kids through Active Schools”

 “Overall Physical Activity” scores alarmingly low (grade F). Lack of regular physical activity is closely associated with a higher risk of overweight and obesity. The research team suggests that schools should promote quality physical education, provide more free play and breaks between classes, and offer a diversity of extracurricular activities. There is also a need to foster school-family collaboration and to establish an evaluation system in order to improve physical activity surveillance. Collectively, more physical activity opportunities for children and youth with SEN should be provided.

2019 Hong Kong Report Card+ on physical activity for children and youth with SEN

The “Active Healthy Kids Hong Kong Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth with SEN” is part of a global effort to promote physical activity in children and youth with SEN by the Active Healthy Kids Global Alliance. The Report Card assigns grades to different indicators based on a synthesis and examination of the best available evidence against the pre-defined benchmarks. Together the indicators provide a robust and comprehensive assessment of physical activity for children and youth with SEN. For details, please visit: http://activehealthykidshongkong.com.hk/

The research project is supported by the Tin Ka Ping Foundation. The core members of the research team include: Prof. Cindy Hui-Ping Sit, Professor, Department of Sports Science and Physical Education, CUHK, Prof. Stephen Heung-Sang Wong, Chairman and Professor, Department of Sports Science and Physical Education, CUHK, Dr. Wendy Yajun Huang, Associate Professor, Department of Sport, Physical Education and Health, Hong Kong Baptist University, Prof. Martin Chi-Sang Wong, Professor, Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care, CUHK, Prof. Raymond Kim-Wai Sum, Associate Professor, Department of Sports Science and Physical Education, CUHK, and Dr. Jane Jie Yu, Research Associate (until July 30, 2020), Department of Sports Science and Physical Education, CUHK.