Physical education has traditionally involved students wearily running laps on campus, but Yao Ming’s new proposal to introduce specialized PE courses is intended to make it fun.
Basketball great Yao, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, told its annual session that courses focusing on individual sports selected by students should be introduced in high schools to improve teenagers’ declining fitness levels.
“Interest is always the best teacher. If students can learn and practice what they are interested in during PE classes, instead of being forced to take the same monotonous exercise everyone does, they will be more willing to train,” Yao told China Daily on March 8.
Under the current high school curriculum, students take two 45-minute PE classes per week involving basic exercises such as running and jumping, and spend a limited amount of time playing ball games without professional guidance.
The emphasis on academic study has seen extracurricular sports activities replaced by extra tutoring in many schools, resulting in a decline in students’ average fitness levels, according to a survey released by the Education Ministry last year.
Under Yao’s proposal, a specialized PE course would teach a single sport selected by students with the same interest during a 90-minute session. The idea has been tested in schools in Shanghai.
Theoretical teaching, intensive training and practice games would be run by qualified instructors to help students progress in their chosen sport.
“Normally, students don’t have time to become really involved in one sport,” said the 34-year-old former National Basketball Association All-Star center.
“Without enough time to train at a high level of intensity, their interest in sport cannot grow. Once they can do this, they will develop the habit of playing a sport and their fitness will take care of itself.”
More than 13,000 students have taken part in this type of course at 17 high schools in Shanghai since 2012, and have been able to choose from nine sports including basketball, soccer and table tennis.
According to a survey conducted by the Shanghai Sports Bureau last year, 81.5 percent of participating students said they had fallen in love with at least one sport because of the course.
Hu Jia, principal of Shanghai Jinhui High School, said: “Students do love sports, but not the stereotyped approach to PE classes. By offering customized instruction, they can now have fun while getting enough exercise.”