Shanghai school causes debate over diverse PE classes

Source: Global Times Published: 2020/11/16 23:18:05

Students take a shooting class at Shanghai Gezhi Junior High School (photo: 021video)

A public junior high school in Shanghai recently drew attention after offering its students 11 options for PE classes, including relatively uncommon ones such as rock climbing, fencing and Wing Chun, a kind of Chinese martial art.

These sports classes are part of students' weekly course timetable at Shanghai Gezhi Junior High School. "We don't directly link students' performance in these classes to their final exam results," a member of the administrative staff at the school surnamed Huang told the Global Times on Monday.

From sixth to ninth grade, students learn three to four of the 11 sports every academic year, the school said. The intention is to enrich the students' sports experience, and to help find out their potential talent, said the school's vice-principal Wang Yueping.

A video clip of students taking shooting, boxing and fencing classes at the school went viral on Chinese social media earlier this month. The video, having got more than 5.4 million views on Weibo, triggered heated debate with many netizens questioning the necessity of such "niche sports" for teenage students.

"Can these children handle so many sports classes on top of their academic subjects?" wrote a Weibo user. "I wonder how a public school afford 'expensive' sports like shooting; every bullet costs money," wrote another, adding that he thinks the distribution of resources is unbalanced between public schools.

In response, the school said the sports classes have been welcomed by most of the students. It said that a recent survey found "as many as 98.46 percent of students were satisfied with these sports courses."

The arrangement is based on Shanghai's PE curriculum reform, which aims to improve students' physical and mental health, Huang said.

China's education authorities have proposed PE class reforms at primary and secondary schools to enhance students' physical fitness given the rise in various health risks among teenagers, such as obesity. 

The proportion of Chinese children aged between 6 and 17 who are overweight or obese reached 16 percent in 2018, the National Health Commission said in September 2018. And the rate "is still increasing significantly," it said.

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