Government calls for more PE for students

By Wang Xiaodong (China Daily)
Updated: 2012-10-30 07:37

Local governments and schools will be expected to put more effort into promoting student health and physical education courses, according to a circular published on Monday.

The circular, from the general office of the State Council, requires measures to ensure that primary and middle school students spend an hour each day on schoolyard sports.

Time devoted to PE courses and sports should not be reduced or diverted for other purposes, according to the circular.

The State Council has approved a document looking at ways to strengthen physical education among students. It was jointly submitted by the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Finance, the National Development and Reform Commission, and the General Administration of Sport, said the circular, released on the eve of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which is scheduled to open on Nov 8.

The document also promised more government investment.

It encouraged efforts to organize more after-class sports activities for students and told schools to support students' sports clubs.

PE should promote students' interest in sport, develop morality, cooperative spirit and communication skills and impart basic knowledge and skills, the document said.

Such education should help students develop good exercise habits and a healthy lifestyle.

Authorities have been urged to step up the construction of sports facilities, and called on public sports venues to offer free or discounted admission to young students.

The document also called for an examination and assessment system of students' physical health. A national standard of students' physical health should be established and implemented. Schools nationwide should organize physical examinations for all students annually and report the results to a national database, the document said.

Parents will be notified of relevant information.

Health conditions will be considered in performance assessments of schools and relevant government departments.

While PE in China has improved in recent years, it is viewed as a weak subject in school education, lacking an assessment system and sufficient teachers, places and facilities, which has restrained the development of students' health, the document added.

"The circular will definitely help promote physical education in schools and improve students' health," said Zhu Yin, an official for youth affairs in General Administration of Sport.

"Compared with previous documents, the new one emphasizes effectively implementing measures, and sends a very positive signal to local governments," he said.

Mao Zhenming, director of the College of PE and Sports under Beijing Normal University, said the document emphasizes responsibility among governments and schools at various levels.

"For example, now it has made it mandatory for schools to ensure that primary and middle school students spend an hour each day on schoolyard sports, and schools nationwide are required to organize physical examinations for all students annually and report the results," Mao said.

Physical education at schools is lagging behind education of general knowledge, and students' physical strength has been declining in recent years, a development that has prompted the central government to urge schools to pay more attention to students' health, Mao said.

"We have frequently seen reports that freshmen fainted during military training at colleges in recent years, which was rarely seen in the past," Mao said. "The government proposed students do physical exercises for at least an hour a day decades ago, but in reality, few students can do so, as physical education classes have been squeezed by courses offering scientific and culture knowledge in many schools."

Mao said similar measures to increase students' physical health will be submitted in the future.

"But the government and schools should improve their awareness of the importance of physical education to students," Mao said.

Xinhua contributed to this story.