The primary aims of physical education have varied, based on the needs of the time and place. Most modern schools' goal is to equip students with the knowledge, skills, capacities, and values along with the enthusiasm to maintain a healthy lifestyle into adulthood. Some schools also require physical education as a way to promote weight loss in students. Activities included in the program are designed to promote physical fitness, to develop motor skills, to instill knowledge and understanding of rules, concepts, and strategies, and to teach students to work as part of a team, or as individuals, in a wide variety of competitive activities.
In Singapore, pupils from primary school through junior colleges are required to have 2 hours of PE every school week, except during examination seasons. Pupils are able to play games like football, badminton, 'captain's ball' and basketball during most sessions. Unorthodox sports such as tchoukball, fencing and skateboarding are occasionally played. In more prestigious secondary schools and in junior colleges, sports such as golf, tennis, shooting, squash are played. A compulsory fitness exam, NAPFA, is conducted in every school once every year to assess the physical fitness of the pupils. Pupils are given a series of fitness tests (Pull-ups/ Inclined pull-ups for girls, standing broad jump, sit-ups, sit-and-reach and 1.2 km for secondary/2.4 km for junior colleges run). Students are graded by gold, silver, bronze and fail. NAPFA for Year 2 males in junior colleges serves as an indicator for an additional 2 months in the country's compulsory national service if they attain bronze or fail.
In Scotland, pupils are expected to do two periods of P.E. in first year, one in second year and two in third and fourth year. In fifth and sixth year, P.E. is voluntary.
In England, pupils are expected to do two hours of P.E a week in Year 7, 8 and 9 and at least 1 in year 10 and 11.
In Wales, pupils are expected to do one hour of P.E per fortnight.
Certain activities require a special uniform. For example, some schools require swimming as part of the physical education curriculum. In this case, students have to wear a bathing suit in either the school color or black with a swimming cap of the same color. It was not uncommon for schools to allow or require male or female students to swim in the nude if the class was single-sex. Also, in games with two or more teams, students usually have to wear colored jerseys or cape-like garments over the usual uniform as a way of identifying team member.
Some schools are more lenient and pupils can wear tracksuit bottoms, three-quarter lengths or even shorts, with a t-shirt of their choice as long as there is no football, rugby etc colours.