For Yunnan college students, PE no longer a minor subject


Students take part in a running competition in a sport meet held in Yunnan University in 2019. [Photo/Yunnan University]

For fresh students entering Yunnan University this autumn semester, failing to pass the physical fitness tests including running, pull-up and jumping will mean no diploma.

According to the new rule, which is dubbed the "strictest school rule on physical education in history", PE classes must be offered to all students as compulsory courses, and students need to complete a total of 200 class hours in PE if they want to graduate.

This new requirement is nothing new. In 2007, the Ministry of Education issued a regulation, which asked schools to include physical fitness as a key criteria in assessing students' performance, and those failing to acquire 50 points in the tests should not be allowed to graduate.

But the regulation has never been fully implemented. Many schools, fearing a strict enforcement would lead to too many students' failing to graduate, turned a blind eye to their poor performance in PE tests.

Though Chinese people's livelihoods have improved over the last few decades thanks to the economic boom, the physical fitness of students has been on the decline. 

A survey of college students, aged 19 to 22 years old, made by the Ministry of Education showed that in 2019 the scores of students in events such as standing long jump, 50-meter running, and push-up have fallen compared with the 2014 levels. For instance, the performance of 1,000-meter running for male students declined by 12.37 seconds and that of 800-meter running for female students dropped by 9.56 seconds.

The worsening physical health of students can be attributed to a lack of exercise and unhealthy lifestyles. As Chinese students face a fierce competition in the all-important college entrance exam, or gaokao, academic performance is given a top priority in schools. PE classes often take a back seat to academic subjects which are considered more important.

Burdened with heavy academic workloads, students of primary and secondary schools lead a largely sedentary lifestyle. And with the internet becoming a big part of their lives, many adolescents would rather spend their spare time playing video games rather than doing outdoor activities.

It is within this context that the new rule of Yunnan University becomes significant.

Actually, it is not the first time that Yunnan province made the headline for attaching sufficient importance to physical education. Last year, it became the first provincial region of China to give PE classes the same weight as the three major academic subjects – Chinese, math and English – in high school entrance exams.

For college students, obtaining a diploma is but a small target. The PE tests are designed to help them develop a healthy lifestyle which would bring them lifelong benefits.

After all, health is the "1". Without health, there is nothing.

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