Students need a sporting chance with physical education

Updated: 2013-07-01 09:05

By Sun Xiaochen (China Daily)

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Is China already a world power in youth sports? Its performance at the Universiade suggests it is, but education officials are more circumspect.

Dominating the medal tally with 75 golds at the 2011 Summer Universiade in Shenzhen, China appeared to have emerged as a world power, but the overall fitness level of Chinese students remains a concern, said Hao Ping, vice-minister of education.

"Although our local governments and schools have worked hard to improve physical education on campus, the decline in student fitness reminds us that we are far from being a strong sporting nation," Hao said at a ceremony for the Chinese delegation to the 27th Universiade on Wednesday.

"Physical education remains a weakness at every level of our education system. There is still a lot to be done at the grassroots level to guarantee student participation in sports."

Hao's concern was highlighted by a series of student deaths during sporting events.

Yin Xiuzhu, a sophomore at East China University of Political Science and Law, died during a run on May 28, just 10 days after Qiu Zhixiong, a student at South China University of Technology, died at the end of a fitness test.

In November, Chen Jie, 21, died of cardiac arrest as he finished the Guangzhou Marathon.

Some pundits are calling for a ban on long-distance running in schools, but Hao insists it is an overemphasis on academic performance that should take the blame. In a system where exam results are paramount, physical education, as well as its importance, is often overlooked.

"To further promote the role of physical education on campus, we should try to establish a system that acknowledges and rewards fitness levels and participation in sports with academic success," Hao said.

The leader of the Federation of University Sports of China urged schools to get more students active in sports.

"We do have examples of both academic excellence and sporting achievement in recent years," said Yang Liguo, vice-chairman of the federation and head of the Chinese delegation.

Wang Yu, a high jumper who majors in business at Tsinghua University, made national headlines after winning the IAAF World Challenge Beijing leg, clearing a height of 2.31 meters, a world second-best this year.

"Wang is proof that sports and academics can help each other," Yang said.

China will send 290 student athletes to compete at 21 major events at the 27th Universiade in Kazan, Russia, from July 6 to 17.

(China Daily USA 07/01/2013 page4)